January 28, 2013 / 6:52 PM / 5 years ago

U.N. says cannot help war-hit Syrians without more money

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United Nations warned on Monday that it will not be able to help millions of war-hit Syrians without more money and appealed for donations at an aid conference this week in Kuwait to meet its $1.5 billion (£956.4 million) target.

It has raised just 3 percent of that so far.

Some 4 million Syrians need food, shelter and other aid inside the country and nearly 700,000 more have fled to neighbouring countries since the 22-month-old conflict began, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos told reporters in Beirut.

Aid agencies have struggled to help Syrians in the country because control of some areas changes frequently and humanitarian workers have been kidnapped and killed, said Amos, hours after she returned from a visit to Syria.

The United Nations says it needs about $1 billion to help refugees in neighbouring countries including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and another $519 million to help people inside Syria.

“We very much hope that the countries attending that conference will be generous in supporting our appeal. We cannot do our job without the resources to enable us to do that,” she said, referring to a conference to be held in Kuwait on January 30, chaired by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement, but rebels took up arms after the government cracked down on the demonstrations.

The rebellion has since become a full-scale civil war. Insurgents have taken swathes of rural territory from government forces but have failed to capture major cities and towns. More than 60,000 people have died, the United Nations says.

Last month, the United Nations withdrew 25 of its 100 foreign aid workers from Syria as fighting intensified around Damascus, but said it was committed to maintaining aid work.

Amos said control of neighbourhoods was changing on “an almost daily basis”, further complicating aid efforts.

“We are doing all we can to make sure that our assistance inside the country reaches those in need, but it’s very difficult given the insecurity and the volatility of the security situation,” she said.

Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Louise Ireland

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