GENEVA • The United Nations (UN) launched a record humanitarian appeal yesterday, asking for US$20.1 billion (S$28 billion) next year to help 87 million people affected by 37 national and regional crises.
"The overall picture is bleak," UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien told a news conference in Geneva. "Suffering in the world has reached levels not seen in a generation.
"Conflicts and disasters have driven millions of children, women and men to the edge of survival," he said in a statement launching the annual aid appeal, stressing: "They desperately need our help."
"Of course it is a lot of money, but if you compare with military expenditure or bailouts of the financial system, it's perfectly affordable," said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Antonio Guterres. "Mass movement of people, be it refugees or people fleeing within their own countries, has become the new defining reality of the 21st century.
"The international humanitarian system is all too often the only safety net that exists for people fleeing wars," he added, insisting: "It has to be funded on a scale that's realistic and commensurate with today's immense challenges."
MORE SUFFERING THAN BEFORE
The overall picture is bleak. Suffering in the world has reached levels not seen in a generation.
UN HUMANITARIAN CHIEF STEPHEN O'BRIEN
The global appeal from UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations aims to gather funds to help more than 87.6 million of the some 125 million people expected to require assistance next year.
Conflicts and serious crises are raging in 27 countries, and six of them - the Central African Republic, Burundi, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen - have spilled over to surrounding regions, bringing the total number of countries now in peril to a staggering 37, the UN said.
The conflicts have already forced more than 60 million people to flee their homes worldwide, with those escaping violence in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan especially sparking Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II.
With so many conflicts raging out of control, the UN said the amount needed next year was five times more than what it requested a decade ago.
The appeal also dwarfs the US$16.4 billion requested in December last year in the initial appeal for this year.
But as needs soar, donor countries are increasingly struggling to fund a multitude of often chronically underfunded aid programmes. Donors have managed to provide only 49 per cent of the amount needed this year, and full funding of the 2015 appeal is highly unlikely.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Margaret Chan also stressed the desperate need for more funds. "The number of people now affected by conflicts and other crises is unprecedented, with an unprecedented impact on their health," she said in the statement.
"WHO and its partners are committed to ensuring that everyone, especially women and children, get the healthcare they desperately need," she said. "But we urgently require more funding in order to do so."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE