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If the news from around the world seems bleak, it isn't just you. From Syria to Iraq and natural disasters to a deadly virus, 2014 has already been marked by a major surge in humanitarian crises — and there are still four months to go.

A UN report released last week says this year has seen a large increase in the number of people needing aid, up to 102 million from 81 million in December 2013.

"2014 has seen a major surge in humanitarian crises around the world," said the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, adding that aid agencies need an estimated $17.3 billion US to...

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