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UN Seeks Record $20.1 Billion for Humanitarian Aid

FILE - Syrian refugees and other migrants struggle to get dry food during aid distribution on the Greek island of Kos, Aug. 14, 2015.

Strained by a year of multiple wars and mass refugee migrations, the United Nations is making the largest humanitarian appeal in its 70-year history.

The organization and affiliated agencies are seeking $20.1 billion in funding to help some 87 million people in 37 different regions and countries next year.

"Suffering in the world has reached levels not seen in a generation," said the U.N.'s humanitarian aid chief, Stephen O'Brien.

The U.N. agencies for health, refugees and humanitarian assistance – known as WHO, UNHCR and OCHA – said Monday that needs are greatest in Syria, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen. Great need is expected to persist in those war-ravaged countries next year and is likely to grow elsewhere with disruptive El Nino weather patterns predicted for 2016.

The agencies already are being squeezed in their efforts to deliver aid. They sought $19.9 billion in their 2015 appeals but face a record funding gap of $10.2 billion.

Governments supply most of the money in the U.N.'s annual appeal. The funds are used to buy food, shelter, medicine and other basic needs for vulnerable populations.