UNITED NATIONS - The humanitarian response for Syria is facing a critical shortage of funds, a top UN relief official warned Monday, calling on donors to scale up their contributions to enable aid agencies to help those affected by the escalating crisis. “If we don’t get more money, people will die and there will be more humanitarian suffering. The needs will continue to grow as long as this conflict continues – that is a sad and tragic truth,” said John Ging, the Director of the Coordination and Response Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

To date, the $189 million appeal for assistance for the response inside Syria is 20 per cent funded, while the $193 million appeal for the response to assist refugees in Turkey, Lebanon Jordan and Iraq is also 20 per cent funded.

“To enable humanitarian action in an incredibly difficult, dangerous environment, funding is now the number one priority in terms of unlocking a bigger humanitarian response. That’s both for inside Syria and also for the regional refugee response,” Ging told reporters in Geneva following the fourth meeting of the Syrian Humanitarian Forum, according to a news release issued at UN Headquarters in New York.

The Forum brought together over 350 participants from Member States, regional organizations, international non-governmental organizations and UN humanitarian agencies to mobilize the necessary resources to provide assistance to the hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by the conflict, which began last year as an uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad.

“We came together today in the face of an escalating conflict, which is having the predictable devastating humanitarian and human impact,” said Ging, who added that insecurity remains a major obstacle to the full implementation of the humanitarian response plan.

He noted that there has been a “significant” scale-up of assistance over the last month, from 500,000 people provided with food assistance last month to an expected 850,000 people this month; but the situation is deteriorating. “In spite of the scale-up, the gap between the needs and the means is very much still there,” he said.

Ging appealed to the donor community to scale up its donations, stating that 20 per cent funding for both appeals is insufficient.

“We have to be prepared, sadly, for a bigger demand on us collectively as this conflict continues. And we must be motivated by the plight of the Syrian people,” he said. “We cannot become numb to their suffering.”

Meanwhile, on the political front, the Joint Special Envoy for the UN and the League of Arab States for the Syrian Crisis, Kofi Annan, arrived in Moscow Monday for two days of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Annan has repeatedly called on the parties to abide by the six-point peace plan he presented several months ago to end the crisis. The plan calls for an end to violence, access for humanitarian agencies to provide relief to those in need, the release of detainees, the start of inclusive political dialogue, and unrestricted access to the country for the international media.