The World

Syria Is Breaking the Planet’s Bank

A young Syrian refugee walks past tents at the Al-Nihaya camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal on Oct. 23, 2014. 

Photo by Maya Hautefeuille/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. appealed Monday for $16.4 billion in donations to meet global humanitarian needs in 2015, the largest annual appeal in history.  Last year, the U.N. asked for $12.9 billion, a figure that eventually grew to $17.9 billion on account of an unexpectedly large number of people in need due to conflicts around the world. Donors, though, coughed up only $9.4 billion. The remainder has been rolled over into this year’s appeal.

According to the appeal, the funds are required to help 57.5 million people in 22 countries, most of them experiencing war or conflict. Syria is by far the biggest problem, accounting for 40 percent of the appeal. Combine that figure with the appeals for Iraq, and the Middle East’s worst war in decades accounts for more than half of next year’s humanitarian needs.


The appeal, on behalf of 455 aid organizations, comes during a month when the World Food Program, a U.N. agency, suspended electronic food vouchers for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt due to a lack of funds. It was announced Tuesday that the program will be reinstated following a successful social media appeal to individual donors, but more resources will be needed with more than 9.5 million people displaced by the conflict both within Syria and abroad.

A consortium of NGOs also called on Monday for wealthy nations to pledge to take in more Syrian refugees, as the resources of the country’s neighbors have been strained past the breaking point. There have been recent reports that Jordan, which at one point was taking in more than 2,000 Syrians per day, is now refusing to let refugees cross its border, though the Jordanian government denies this.

All in all, the world’s humanitarian needs are concentrated in relatively few places. Seventy percent of the U.N.’s appeal is for just four countries: Syria, Iraq, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. But the needs of those places, particularly Syria, seem to be greater than what the world is equipped to handle.

Also in Slate, see the latest photographs from the European refugee crisis.