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A girl wears a face mask as members of the Syrian civil defence sanitize the Bab Al-Nour internally displaced persons camp, in Azaz, Syria, on March 26, 2020.

Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

The United Nations raised $7.7-billion in humanitarian aid on Tuesday for Syria, where nine years of war have displaced millions in a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by soaring food prices and the coronavirus crisis.

While less than the almost $10-billion sought by UN agencies, the pledges were higher than expected, given the economic shock of COVID-19 on many governments and shortfalls in other aid appeals, notably for Yemen this month.

“We recognize that the circumstances are very unusual, it is a difficult moment in every country to find the resources necessary to relieve the suffering of the Syrian people,” UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said after the virtual donor conference by some 60 governments and nonofficial agencies.

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Pledges came from countries including Qatar, which has promised $100-million, and Germany, which offered €1.58-billion ($1.78-billion) in what Berlin said was the single biggest country donation.

‘POLITICAL SOLUTION’

The United Nations, which last year raised $7-billion, said this year it needs $3.8-billion for aid inside Syria where 11 million people require help and protection, with more than 9.3 million of them lacking adequate food.

Another $6.04-billion is sought to help the 6.6 million Syrians who have fled, in what is the world’s biggest refugee crisis.

UN officials will still press for more pledges throughout the year, and have time as the money is split between 2020 and 2021.

Adding to Syrians’ hardship, an economic slump and COVID-19 lockdown have pushed food prices more than 200 per cent higher in less than a year, according to the World Food Program (WFP).

According to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, there have only been 269 confirmed coronavirus cases, but the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the real situation is probably far worse and the number of infections likely to accelerate.

Rebuilding destroyed cities will take billions of dollars more and cannot start until powers involved back a peaceful transition away from the rule of President Bashar al-Assad, EU governments say.

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“We finally need a political solution to the conflict,” said German Development Minister Gerd Muller.

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