The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners have appealed to international donors for US$1 billion to support refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.
The new Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees sets out the funding needs of 55 humanitarian organizations in providing vital protection and assistance for civilians fleeing Syria during the first six months of 2013.
"This massive humanitarian crisis requires urgent support from governments, businesses and private individuals,” said Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR's Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees. "Unless these funds come quickly we will not be able to fully respond to the lifesaving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day – many in a truly desperate condition."
The new US$1 billion appeal is based on planning estimates that up to 1 million Syrian refugees will need help during the first half of 2013.
Currently in the countries immediately surrounding Syria 525,000 Syrians have either registered as refugees or are being assisted. This is a seven-fold increase since May when just 70,000 Syrians had registered for help. Many more Syrians are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, but have not yet registered.
"We are constantly shocked by the horrific stories refugees tell us," said Mr. Moumtzis. "Their lives are in turmoil. They have lost their homes and family members. By the time they reach the borders, they are exhausted, traumatised and with little or no resources to rely on."
The 2013 plan aims at redoubling efforts to protect vulnerable refugees, with a big emphasis on community outreach to refugees living in urban environments. Much of this work is conducted by the 43 national and international NGOs included in the appeal.
Specific activities focusing on children, women, the elderly and survivors of sexual and gender based violence are planned for.
"Children make up roughly half of the refugees crowded into camps and host communities across five countries, and their numbers rise inexorably," said Maria Calivis, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "The evolving situation on the ground has outpaced our efforts to raise the necessary funds. Today, a further response to the desperate plight of Syrian children is once more urgently required."
Since July Syrian refugees have fled the conflict for neighbouring countries at a rate of 2-3,000 a day. The 2013 plan prioritizes support for new arrivals, assistance to hosting communities and plans for construction of new camps.
As the crisis continues to deteriorate inside Syria, there is significant attention given to emergency preparedness in the plan, with regional warehouses being restocked with tents, blankets and basic household items.
This plan includes Egypt for the first time. To date 10,474 Syrians are registered by UNHCR. According to government figures tens of thousands more are in the country. Another new development in the plan is support for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) activities for Palestinians who have fled Syria for Lebanon.
This appeal is the fourth update of the Syria Regional Response Plan, first launched in March 2012. The 2012 Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees received 70% of the US$487 million appealed for.