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Funding gap threatening aid to nine million Syrian children, says UN

A critical funding shortfall is threatening aid to nine million Syrian children, both in their country and among refugees in neighbouring states, the UN children's agency has warned .

Unicef said the 220 million US dollar (£172 million) budget gap to its Syria relief programmes is the worst it has faced since the start of the conflict in 2011.

It appealed for 1.4 billion dollars (£1.1 billion) in 2017 to provide relief and education to children orphaned, displaced, wounded, or otherwise affected by the Syria war.

A Unicef statement said: "Without an injection of new funds, some critical and lifesaving activities ... are at a serious risk of being cut off, with grave consequences for Syrian children."

UN aid programmes have suffered from chronic funding shortfalls throughout the Syria crisis.

On Tuesday, the UN's refugee agency UNHCR said it had managed to raise only 29 million dollars (£22 million) of the 153 million dollars (£120 million) it had budgeted for to meet humanitarian needs in northern Syria, where a US-supported assault on the Islamic State group's de facto capital Raqqa has displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

Local obstructionism has also severely limited access for the agencies.

The UN has been unable to reach any of the 600,000 civilians in Syria it counts as besieged in more than 40 days, a senior humanitarian official said on Thursday.

Jan Egeland blamed the delays on "red tape". He has previously accused the Syrian government of failing to fulfil its obligations to allow aid access to besieged areas.

Nearly six million children are in need in Syria and another 2.5 million require assistance in neighbouring countries, according to Unicef.

AP

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