International donors on Wednesday pledged more than the targeted $1.5 billion in aid for stricken Syrians, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said, warning of a “catastrophic” situation in the war-torn country.
“I am pleased to announce that pledges have exceeded the target… more than $1.5 billion have been pledged including the $184 million pledged by non-governmental organizations,” Ban told a news conference in Kuwait.
“The exact amount of the pledges are being calculated,” said the secretary general. “This is the largest response ever to a humanitarian pledging conference.”
Addressing the International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait City, Ban had called for urgent financial aid, warning that if funds were not forthcoming “more Syrians will die.”
“The situation in Syria is catastrophic,” he said as he urged all parties to the conflict to “stop the killings.”
Ban said that based on U.N. reports half of Syria’s hospitals and a quarter of its schools had been destroyed, and other vital infrastructure had been badly affected.
He stressed that humanitarian assistance alone would not resolve the crisis, which he said required a political solution.
Host Kuwait was first to make a pledge, offering $300 million, followed by similar promises from other oil-rich Gulf states — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“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-Ahmed al-Sabah said as he opened the one-day gathering.
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 Damascus 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 said it would offer $20 million while the German foreign ministry in a statement pledged around 10 million euros ($13.5 million).
U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said that three million Syrians have fled their homes and 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 Suleiman 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.
International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has criticized the current international aid system which it said is “not being distributed equally between government and opposition controlled areas.”
The opposition Syrian National Coalition said last week it would pressure the United Nations to stop the delivery of any form of aid to official Syrian institutions.
Amos on Wednesday denied that part of the aid money goes to the regime, but agreed that several rebel-held areas were still out of reach.
The Syrian regime tightly monitors aid groups it authorizes to work on its soil.
The U.N. refugee agency said on Tuesday that there has been a steep rise in the number of Syrian refugees over the past few weeks and their number has now surpassed 700,000.
U.N. 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.
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.