GENEVA - The United Nations on Friday appealed for $8.5 billion to help some 51 million people engulfed in 16 major crises around the world during 2013, not including the civil war in Syria. In 2012, the UN had appealed for $7.7 billion to help about the same number of people, although the world body increased its appeal mid-year to $8.9 billion.

While formidable, Friday’s appeal falls short of the more than $10 billion requested for aid in 2010, a year marked by the devastating Haiti earthquake and massive flooding in Pakistan.

In 2013, the three countries set to receive the largest chunks of the pot are Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, which suffered severe underfunding of aid projects this year.

The UN is asking for $1.3 billion dollars for Somalia, a country where famine caused by extreme drought and exacerbated by conflict killed tens of thousands of people last year.

While the famine was declared over on February 3, the UN said the 14-per cent-hike in its funding request for the country was necessary since “3.8 million people in Somalia are in need of life-saving assistance or other crucial support”.

Another country slated for significantly higher aid next year is Mali, hit by massive unrest after the hardliners seized control of its north.

“Mali is affected by an unprecedented political, security and humanitarian crisis,” the UN said Friday, stressing it would need $370 million for the country next year - 73 per cent more than it asked for in 2012 - to help nearly four million people.

Other countries set for UN aid next year are: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Yemen, Chad, Afghanistan, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic and the Philippines. The occupied Palestinian territory is also on the list.

Aid for Syria, ravaged by a 21-month conflict that according to activists has killed at least 42,000 people, was not included in Friday’s appeal.

The UN is set to launch two separate appeals next week to help the people inside the war-torn country, where an estimated 2.5 million people currently need aid, and to assist that swelling number of Syrians fleeing the country.

More than a half million Syrians are now registered as refugees in neighbouring countries and North Africa.