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Western, Arab states pledge $2.4 billion in Syria aid

KUWAIT:  Western and Gulf Arab nations pledged more than $2.4 billion on Wednesday for U.N. aid efforts in Syria, where a near three-year civil war has left millions of people hungry, ailing or displaced.

The pledge arose from a U.N. appeal for $6.5 billion in 2014, which was launched last month and is the largest in the organization's history.

The world body estimates the conflict has reversed development gains in Syria by 35 years, with half its people now living in poverty.

But only around 70 percent of $1.5 billion pledged at a similar meeting last year has reached U.N. coffers, hinting at donor fatigue with no end to the bloodshed on the horizon.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said all sides in the conflict had shown "total disregard for their responsibilities under international humanitarian and human rights law".

"Children, women, men are trapped, hungry, ill, losing hope," Amos told the 69 countries attending a donor conference held in Kuwait.

The Gulf state's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, promised $500 million in new aid, while the United States announced a contribution of $380 million.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia pledged $60 million each. The European Union pledged $225 million and Britain $165 million.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the total was more than $2.4 billion.

Money raised last year in Kuwait was used by the United Nations to provide food rations, medicine, drinking water and shelters for people in Syria and surrounding countries.

The largest donations at that conference came from Gulf Arab governments, which have mainly backed Syrian rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad.

Kuwait has avoided showing support for either side and has voiced concern about the sectarian nature of the conflict.

"Even under the best circumstances, the fighting has set back Syria years, even decades," said Ban, who chaired the conference.

"I am especially concerned that the sides are using violence against women and girls to denigrate and dehumanize their opponents. I call for an immediate end to these abuses, which harm individuals and undermine Syria's future."

Source: Reuters

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