U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened a donor conference for humanitarian aid for Syria on Wednesday by calling on all parties, especially the government of President Bashar al-Assad, to end the violence in the nearly two-year old conflict that has left at least 60,000 dead. The conference drew representatives from more than 60 countries as well as several non-governmental organizations and aims to raise $1.5 billion to address a humanitarian crisis that is spinning out of control.
More than 700,000 Syrians have fled the country and roughly 10 percent of the population has become internally displaced, in addition to the nearly 4 million Syrians, half of them children, who are in need of assistance. Shortly after the session got underway, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and conference host Kuwait each pledged $300 million in aid. President Obama announced that the United States will provide $155 million in new humanitarian assistance to Syrians, nearly doubling the American commitment. He said the assistance would go toward providing medicine, food, and clothing and blankets as winter approaches.