Swiss to send more support for Syrian civilians

Newly-arrived Syrian refugees walk by the French Military mobile hospital at a refugee camp in Jordan Keystone

Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has pledged an additional SFr2 million ($2.1 million) to Syria. Governments and humanitarian organisations in various locations discussed Tuesday how best to help victims of the country’s civil war.

This content was published on September 4, 2012 - 21:49 and agencies

A total of SFr13 million has been pledged by Switzerland thus far in 2012.  The additional money will allow "response to the increasing demand" for means to face the crisis, Burkhalter said.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told the president of the Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, that humanitarian aid is welcome, "as long as it is carried out in an independent and neutral way."

At the meeting in Damascus, Maurer stressed the need for the wounded to have quick access to health care and the need to speed up imports of medical supplies, food and equipment for repairing water supply systems, said an ICRC spokesman.

Needs have grown "exponentially" in recent weeks due to the escalation of fighting that has cut off civilians from basic services and life-saving supplies, according to the ICRC.

In New York, the United Nations announced that its campaign to raise money to help Syrian refugees was foundering. The UN had set a goal of $180 million for its 193 member countries, but only half that amount had been raised.

“We are seriously underfinanced,” said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky on Tuesday .

The countries bordering on Syria are also having problems.

“The governments that have opened their doors to the refugees and have accepted the responsibility are urgently in need of help,” Nesirky said.

The number of people seeking asylum in surrounding countries rose sharply in August, to more than 100,000, a UN official said. It was the highest monthly total during the 17-month-old uprising, and more than three times the number of refugees who fled the country in July.

According to the UN, more than 18,000 people have died in Syria since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011.

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