UN Agencies Pin Hopes on Kuwait Pledging Conference for Syria Funds

An example of a World Food Program package delivered to Syrians in need.

An example of a World Food Program package provided to Syrians in need.

Kuwait City, March 29, 2015 – Representatives from UN agencies started gathering in Kuwait over the weekend ahead of the Third International Pledging Conference for Syria with hopes that donors will stump up much needed funds for the at least 12 million Syrians in need.

A combined total of almost $4 billion was pledged at the previous two donor conferences – $1.5 billon in 2013 and 2.4 billion last year – but almost double that amount is needed at the March 31st gathering to meet basic needs for the remainder of the year.

The World Food Program requires $30 million weekly to feed six million Syrians inside and outside the country while the World Health Organization’s (WHO) requirements to provide life-saving medicines and services for 2015 is over $1 billion.

The WHO’s Tarik Jasarevic told UN Tribune that new crises continue to emerge and with the warmer season approaching the risk of cholera increases.

A crisis that continues to worsen is the decreasing amount of medical facilities and professionals in the country. Barely half the hospitals in Syria are fully functioning while more than half of the country’s doctors and health staff have left the country due to insecurity.

Procuring essential medicines is another growing challenge. While Syria once produced 90 percent of the drugs it needed in in the country, that figure is now less than 30 percent.

A hidden crisis is emerging in the mental health sector with a lack of facilities and a lack of medicine. Syrians with chronic diseases, including an estimated 10,000 children with cancer, are also at risk due to diminishing availability of life-saving treatment while a lack of dialysis treatment for diabetes sufferers is yet another growing crisis.

The UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF) requires $903 billion for 2015. Two years ago, 2.5 million Syrian children needed help, the agency’s Juliette Touma told UN Tribune, but that figure has increased three-fold to 8.5 million, including 2.6 million children who are not in school.

Another UN agency hoping for a big response in Kuwait is UNRWA, the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, including more than 500,000 residing in camps in Syria. UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said it urgently needs $415 million as 95 percent of Palestinian refugees in Syria cannot meet their daily needs.

Some 78 governments and more than 40 aid agencies are expected in Kuwait for the pledging conference on Tuesday which Ban Ki-moon will chair.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Ethiopia Among Countries to Meet MDG Hunger Target

A fruit and vegetable market in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. (credit: wikimedia)

Dec. 1, 2014 – Fifteen developing countries in 2014 have met the MDG 1 hunger goal of reducing by half the number of undernourished people from 1990 levels.

Ethiopia, the 13th most populous nation in the world and Africa’s second most populous behind Nigeria, is among the 15 to reach the target this year. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization said on Sunday that the prevalence of undernourishment in the country has decreased from 74.8 percent in 1990-92, to 35 percent in 2012-14.

But there are still some 33 million Ethiopians without enough food each day, almost one-third of the country’s 96 million people.

Brazil, Cameroon, Iran and Mexico were also among the fifteen countries this year to meet the hunger goal. The prevalence of undernourishment in these countries was much lower than in Ethiopia with Brazil reducing hunger from 14.8 percent of its population in 1990-92, to 1.7 percent in 2012-14, while the number of hungry in Cameroon declined to 2.3 million people compared with 4.7 million in 1990.

Globally, there are some 805 million people who do not have enough food to eat each day. In China, which met the hunger goal in June this year, 10.6 percent of the population are undernourished while in India, which has not yet met the target, 15.2 percent of people are undernourished. Combined, these two countries account for 340 million of the world’s undernourished people, 40 percent of the overall total.

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Hunger is the biggest public health threat globally, according to the World Health Organization and is a contributory factor in the death of 3.1 million children under five every year.

While progress is being made in the fight against hunger, conflict is driving food insecurity in a number of places including Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Iraq, Gaza and Syria. On Monday, the World Food Program announced it was suspending a food aid scheme for 1.7 million Syrian refugees due to a lack of funding. The agency said it needs $64 million in December to resume its voucher scheme in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

The Millennium Development Goals are set to expire in December 2015 and will be replaced by a new set of post-2015 goals.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz