Aid pledges pour in for Syrians as Ban warns of 'catastrophe'
International donors at a Kuwait conference Wednesday pledged almost $1 billion in aid for stricken Syrians, as UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned of a "catastrophic" situation in their war-torn country.
"Total pledges so far are around $1 billion," a Gulf official said requesting anonymity, adding that "Saudi Arabia has pledged $300 million," after Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates each pledged a similar amount.
Addressing the so-named International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City, Ban called for urgent financial aid, warning that if funds were not forthcoming "more Syrians will die".
"The situation in Syria is catastrophic," the UN chief said as he urged all parties to the conflict to "stop the killings".
Ban said that based on UN reports half of Syria's hospitals and a quarter of its schools had been destroyed while other vital infrastructure had been badly affected.
He stressed that humanitarian assistance would not resolve the crisis, which he said required a political solution.
Host Kuwait was first to make a pledge, offering $300 million, followed soon after by the UAE, another oil-rich Gulf country, which according to the official WAM news agency pledged a further $300 million.
"Due to the great sufferings of the Syrian people and to help ensure the success of the conference, I announce the Kuwaiti donation of $300 million for the Syrian people," Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah said as he opened the one-day conference.
Sheikh Sabah said that "horrifying reports" from Syria are a "cause for concern over the security of Syria, its future ... and over the security and future of the region."
He held the Syrian regime responsible for the tragic situation which he said resulted from its "rejection of the just popular demands and of Arab and international initiatives."
Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa said the tiny Gulf kingdom would offer $20 million while the German foreign ministry pledged in a statement around 10 million euros ($13.5 million).
UN humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said that three million Syrians have fled their homes inside the country and that at least 2.3 million need basic help.
She said that $519 million of the funds to be raised are needed to assist those most affected by the conflict.
King Abdullah II of Jordan and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman both called at the conference for more aid to cope with increasing numbers of Syrian refugees in their respective countries.
The United States on Tuesday promised another $155 million to aid refugees fleeing the deadly conflict.
Non-governmental charity organisations, meeting in Kuwait Tuesday ahead of the conference, pledged $182 million for Syrian civilians affected by the deadly conflict.
The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that there has been a steep rise in the number of Syrian refugees during the past few weeks and their number has surpassed 700,000.
UN humanitarian operations director John Ging warned ahead of the conference that the United Nations will be forced to cut already reduced food rations to hundreds of thousands of Syrians unless a huge cash injection is found.
UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said on Tuesday Syria's war had reached "unprecedented levels of horror", after dozens of men were found slaughtered in the northern city of Aleppo.
Brahimi told the divided UN Security Council it had to act now to halt the carnage epitomized by the at least 78 young men, each killed with a single bullet and dumped in a river in the battlefront city of Aleppo.
The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria's 22-month conflict, which erupted in March 2011 with peaceful protests but morphed into an armed insurgency after a harsh regime crackdown.