UN: $12.9 billion aid needs in 2014, half to Syria

A Syrian refugee woman fetches water at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Tens of thousands of impoverished Syrian refugees living in tents, shacks and unfinished buildings throughout Lebanon face a miserable winter as aid organizations scramble to meet their needs, constantly overwhelmed by ever-more Syrians fleeing their country’s war. Charities have already distributed blankets, mattresses, kerosene heaters, winter clothes and coupons for fuel ahead of the region’s unprecedented storm this week that blanketed parts of Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Turkey, Israel and even Egypt’s deserts with snow, amid icy and rainy winds. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

GENEVA (AP) — The United Nations said Monday it needs almost $13 billion to meet some of the world's biggest humanitarian needs in 2014, and almost half of that amount would go to Syria and its surrounding region.

The request is meant to reach 52 million people in 17 countries, and is the largest amount that the U.N. and its partner agencies have ever asked at the start of the year to meet global humanitarian needs, officials said.

A year ago, the U.N.'s humanitarian request looking ahead to 2013 was for $8.5 billion, but Syria's civil war forced them to revise that assessment upward to $13.6 billion. The U.N. and other officials said Monday that their 2013 request will be only 60 percent funded.

Such funding gaps will leave many people hungry, lacking shelter and unprotected from violence, said Valeria Amos, the U.N.'s humanitarian chief.

The U.N. admits that their funding request for 2014 is formidable, "but attainable."

Amos said that Syria's needs are greatest, and even if the nearly three-year-old conflict, which has claimed over 100,000 lives and displaced millions, ends tomorrow, "we would have to maintain help on the humanitarian front."

Besides Syria, where $6.5 billion in aid is being sought, the next biggest requests are for $1.1 billion for South Sudan, $995 million for Sudan, $928 million for Somalia, $832 million for the Congo, and $791 million for the typhoon-hit Philippines.

Other major requests are for $591 million in Yemen, $406 million for Afghanistan, $390 million in the occupied Palestinian territories, $247 million for Central African Republic and $169 million for Haiti.