Ban to chair highlevel donor conference next month for Syria humanitarian effort

The conference, to be held on 30 January in Kuwait, follows a $1.5 billion appealed launched last week by the United Nations and its partners, who have been hampered in their efforts to carry out relief activities due to lack of funds. The pledging conference is “a timely and much-needed opportunity to address the funding gap,” said a statement issued today by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson. “The Secretary-General urges all Member States to be generous in their pledges and is thankful to those who continue to support the humanitarian efforts.”The bulk of the appeal – $1 billion – is to support refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt. It is based on planning estimates that up to a million Syrian refugees will need help during the first half of next year.Another $519 million will be needed to support an estimated four million people inside Syria who need urgent humanitarian assistance, including an estimated two million internally displaced persons.This winter, many families are struggling to keep warm, without adequate shelter, warm clothes and heating fuel, the statement noted, adding that children make up more than 50 per cent of the civilians affected by the crisis. At least 20,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in early 2011. Recent months have witnessed an escalation in the conflict, which is now in its 22nd month.Meanwhile, the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the League of Arab States for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will travel to Moscow to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tomorrow.This is the latest in a series of meetings in the region and elsewhere – including with Mr. al-Assad in Damascus earlier this week – held by the Joint Special Representative as part of his efforts to bring about a negotiated, political solution to end the fighting in Syria. read more

NHS hospitals increasingly charging disabled patients to park investigation finds as Health

The number of NHS sites charging patients even though they have a blue badge has risen by almost a fifth in just three years, the figures show.  The flagship Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London has just become the latest to plan such charges, prompting fury from elected patient governors. Disability campaigners said the changes were “disgraceful,” and could mean that some of the most vulnerable in society could end up losing access to care because they could not afford it.  NHS hospitals are increasingly forcing disabled patients to pay for parking, an investigation reveals. Campaigners accused the NHS of having introduced a “wheelchair tax”  which ignored the fact stations near Chelsea…