Damascus (AFP) – The United Nations said Monday it will need a record $12.9 billion in emergency aid to help millions of people around the world, half of them victims of the Syrian conflict.
The appeal came as dozens of people were reportedly killed in Aleppo when regime forces unleashed barrels packed with explosives in rebel districts in the northern city, a focal point of the 33-month war.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 76 people died Sunday, in the highest toll for air raids since the war started, while 10 others, including four children, were killed the same way on Monday.
A fifth child was killed Monday when a shell struck a school in a regime-held neighborhood, said the Observatory which relies on activists and medics on the ground for its reports.
The UN’s humanitarian agency OCHA said the funds are needed for 2014 when the number of Syrian refugees in the Middle East will nearly double to exceed four million.
Aid will also be needed for another 9.3 million people inside the war-ravaged country by the end of next year, OCHA said as it launched its appeal fund in Geneva.
The UN food agency WFP, for its part, warned that almost half of Syria’s population was “food insecure”.
It echoed the assessment of other organisations on the plight of Syrians inside the country and in refugee camps across the Middle East which has been hit by harsh snowstorms over the past week.
The International Rescue Committee, an NGO, said the price of bread in Syria has soared by 500 percent since March 2011, while the cost of blankets at $27 is prohibitively high at around “93 percent of the average monthly income.”
More than 126,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war that has pitted forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad against rebels fighting to topple his regime.
Around 2.4 million people have fled and live as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Many live in tent camps run by the UN refugee agency UNHCR but others shelter in makeshift camps, with relatives or have spent their savings on private lodgings.
The crisis has put an enormous strain on countries hosting refugees and this can only worsen as OCHA now estimates the number of refugees to nearly double next year to reach 4.1 million.
In all, 660,000 Syrians will be living in refugee camps by the end of 2014, while another 3.44 million will be living in private accommodation, it said.
OCHA said it and other international aid agencies and organisations would need a record $12.9 billion to help some 52 million people engulfed in 17 major crises around the world in 2014.
Nearly half of that amount was needed for the Syrian conflict, with $2.27 billion needed for aid inside Syria and $4.2 billion needed for the refugees and their host communities in the region.
The UN’s World Food Programme said that almost half Syria’s population of 23 million “is food insecure” while nearly a third “need urgent, life-saving food assistance.”
WFP said it was stepping up food aid next year and would also provide supplements to around 240,000 toddlers aged 6-23 months, to ensure they do not suffer from malnutrition.
“This is the worst humanitarian crisis that we have seen in decades, with every day more vulnerable Syrians pushed into hunger,” said WFP Syria emergency coordinator Muhannad Hadi.
On the ground, violence continued to grip towns across Syria on Monday a day after the air force was accused by activists of launching unprecedented deadly raids on Aleppo.
The Observatory said 28 children were among 76 people killed Sunday in Aleppo with “explosive-packed barrels”, while 10 others died in similar attacks on Monday.
Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said Sunday’s toll was “one of the heaviest from air raids” since the war flared after the regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests in March 2011.
Fighting also raged in Adra, east of Damascus, where rebels launched an offensive last week in a bid to capture the industrial town as they try to move closer to the Syrian capital.