LONDON (AP) — World leaders pledged more than $10 billion Thursday to help fund schools, shelter and jobs for refugees from Syria's civil war, money that British Prime Minister David Cameron said "will save lives, will give hope, will give people the chance of a future."
But participants at the aid conference in London acknowledged that prospects for ending the conflict have rarely been worse: Peace talks are suspended, fighting is intensifying, Russia and the West are at odds and millions of Syrians are suffering from bombardment, homelessness and hunger.
"The situation in Syria is as close to hell as we are likely to find on this Earth," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was no more upbeat.
"After almost five years of fighting, it's pretty incredible that as we come here in London in 2016, the situation on the ground is actually worse," he said.
The one-day meeting, held under tight security at a conference center near Parliament, aspired to bring new urgency to the effort to help the 4.6 million Syrians who have sought refuge in neighboring countries including Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
An additional 6 million people or more are displaced within Syria; a quarter of a million have been killed.
Previous calls for international donations have come up short, and the five-year war has driven a chaotic exodus of hundreds of thousands of desperate refugees to Europe.
Thursday's pledges, including $6 billion for 2016, are intended to slow that migration by creating schools and secure jobs for Syrian refugees in the Middle East, and economic support for the overburdened host nations.
The 2016 total falls short of the $9 billion the U.N. and regional countries said was needed, but it was a significant improvement on previous efforts. Last year's conference raised just half its $7 billion target,