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Lana Asfour

'Unprecedented' humanitarian challenges facing Middle East

Amos announced the UN's $16.4 billion appeal to help millions in conflict zones

Date of publication: 4 March, 2015

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The UN Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator tells a conference in Amman that more people have been displaced by conflict than at any time since 1945 and warns of the huge challenges facing the region.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, has called for new ideas on how to protect civilians and reinforce humanitarian and human rights law, in a period of enormous upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

"More people are displaced by conflict than at any time since 1945," Amos said on Tuesday in her opening speech at the MENA regional consultation in Amman.

The aim of the Consultations is to generate recommendations from the MENA region for the UN-organised World Humanitarian Summit that will take place in Istanbul in May 2016, whose goal is to improve the humanitarian responses to crises and address challenges confronting civilians and humanitarian actors in the region.

"Millions of people, from Libya to Palestine, from Yemen to Syria and Iraq, have had their lives completely overturned by violence," Amos said, adding that the huge numbers of people affected by conflict, violence and displacement did little "to convey the trauma" experienced.

The Syrian war alone has led to nearly 3.8 registered refugees and over 6.5 internally displaced, according to the latest figures published by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Paying tribute to the hospitality and generosity shown by Syria's neighbours to the refugees fleeing across the border, Amos acknowledged the strain of the refugee crisis on the host countries' public services, infrastructure and the economies.

Amos, who also serves as UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted the importance of grassroots involvement in humanitarian affairs. She said that people needed to be put "front and centre" and called for greater efforts to end the climate of impunity.

"We also need to address the growing gap between humanitarian needs and the funds available to meet them" she added.

She said that the global humanitarian system had been placed under enormous strain over the last decade. Humanitarian needs were becoming too high to cope with. Underdevelopment and increasing poverty and inequality were the result of population growth, urbanisation, conflict and climate change.

Global and regional humanitarian leaders are attending the summit. They include Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Peter Maurer, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president; the UN Secretary General's Humanitarian Envoy, Abdullah al-Matouq; Assistant Secretary General at the League of Arab States, Badre Eddine Allali; Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs of the Islamic Conference Organization (IOC), Hisham Yousef.

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