GENEVA: The United Nations on Friday launched a record $5.2-billion aid appeal to fund operations in Syria and neighbouring nations, saying the number of people affected by the country's brutal conflict was set to spiral.
The sum by far overshadows the $2.2 billion (1.7 billion euros) the UN sought in 2003 to help cope with the crisis sparked by the war in Iraq.
The $5.2 billion represents money needed across this year to pay for operations that have already been undertaken, are ongoing, or are due to be carried out until the end of December.
"The figure for the new appeal is both an expression of the alarm about the situation facing Syrians and an absence of a political solution," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR.
It also marked a more than threefold increase on the $1.5 billion which the UN previously had said that it needed to cover operations this year.
The UN has so far received $1.0 billion of that sum, after launching an appeal last December.
In the latest appeal, the world body said that a total of $3.8 billion was needed to help Syrian refugees who have spilled across the country's borders to escape fighting in their homeland.
The figure for operations inside Syria meanwhile was $1.4 billion.
More than 94,000 people have been killed and some 1.6 million Syrians have fled the country since the civil war began in March 2011 after a crackdown on protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"The numbers represented in this plan are staggering," said Amir Abdulla, deputy executive director of the UN's World Food Programme.
"They represent a tragedy for Syria and a burden on the region," he told reporters.
The overwhelming majority of the refugees have fled to neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, which are struggling to cope. (AFP)