ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) — A top United Nations official on Sunday urged word leaders to reform the humanitarian aid system and uphold international humanitarian law ahead of a key summit.
Speaking on the eve of the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said the gathering was a "wake-up call for action."
"There is a huge need for us to show solidarity with those who are affected by natural disasters and man-made disasters," Eliasson said.
Natural disasters, he warned, were on the rise because of climate change with more than 22 countries affected by the El Nino weather phenomenon.
Eliasson also urged leaders to "stand up" for international humanitarian law which is being flouted in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
He described sieges against civilians in Yemen and Syria as "an absolute violation of international law" and "practically a medieval practice."
He also expressed hope that more energy would be devoted toward conflict prevention as an outcome of the two-day Istanbul meeting.
Other priorities on the summit's "agenda for humanity" action include closing funding shortfalls and reducing the number of those in need.
Sixty-five heads of state and government representatives from 180 countries are expected to attend.
The event is a bid to boost the response to what the United Nations calls the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.
An estimated 125 million people worldwide require humanitarian assistance, among them 60 million people displaced from their homes.
Sixty eight countries including host Turkey, Germany and the United States issued a joint statement ahead the summit saying they were on board with its goals.