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Kuwait, NGOs pledge more than a billion dollars aid to Syria

The International Pledging Conference for Syria has begun in Kuwait. The United Nations has warned that failure to reach its goal of $8.4 billion could have "horrifying" consequences.

A major United Nations conference aiming to gather aid for Syrians opened in Kuwait on Tuesday. The UN has made an appeal to raise $8.4 billion (7.7 billion euros) as experts warn of a "humanitarian catastrophe" unfolding in

the war-torn country.

"Four out of five Syrians live in poverty, misery, and deprivation. The country has lost nearly four decades of human development," Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told the conference attended by delegates from 78 nations, describing the situation as the worst such crisis of our time.

With

the conflict

now in its fifth year, almost half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes. Of the total $8.4 billion needed, $5.5 billion is for refugees in neighboring countries.

The UN got at least $500 million (464 million euros) closer to its goal right away, as the host country announced the hefty donation "from Kuwait's government and private sectors" at the start of the conference.

Ahead of the third annual

Third International Pledging Conference for Syria

International Pledging Conference for Syria, the UN special envoy for humanitarian affairs warned that "failing to meet the required funds" would end in a "horrifying…catastrophe." The first and second meetings saw pledges of $1.2 billion and $2.4 billion, but the UN Office for the Coordination of Refugees said not all pledges were honored.

40 international NGOs had already agreed to donate around $506 million, a significant increase on the previous two years.

Last year was the deadliest since the beginning of the civil war, with at least 76,000 fatalities out of a total of more than 215,000 since it began in March 2011.

es/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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