UNICEF launches $3.3 bln appeal amid de-funding fears

United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN children's agency on Tuesday launched an appeal for $3.3 billion to help 48 million children caught up in crises worldwide amid fears of a funding cut from top donor the United States.

Some 42 percent of the UNICEF appeal for 2017 -- $1.4 billion -- is earmarked to support Syrian children living in the country and as refugees across the borders in neighboring states.

This year's appeal represents a 18 percent increase from the initial 2016 request for funding. Donors contribute to the appeals on a voluntary basis.

The United States is by far the top donor to UNICEF, followed by Germany, Britain and the European Commission.

Media reports that the new administration of President Donald Trump is seeking to cut at least 40 percent of voluntary contributions to international organizations have set off alarm bells at the United Nations.

UNICEF deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said there was "no indication at the moment" that the children's agency will be hit by cuts, adding that he remained hopeful that US support will continue.

Faced with rising humanitarian needs, notably from the wars in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, UN agencies have been requesting more funding, but the donor response often falls short.

"The impact on the ground of our appeals not being funded is children dying, children not going to school, children not being protected," said Forsyth.

Almost one in four of the world's children now lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster, according to UNICEF.

Aside from Syria, UNICEF's assistance in 2017 will be heavily focused on Yemen, South Sudan and Nigeria - three countries ravaged by wars that have had a heavy toll on children.

UNICEF is struggling to ensure children caught up in conflict still have access to schools to avoid creating a lost generation of youths vulnerable to violent extremism.

"There are consequences, not just for the children," said Forsyth. "There are consequences for global and regional security by not investing in the needs of these children for education."