Syrian refugees set to pass two million, aid agencies warn

The number of Syrian refugees will pass the two million mark within the next nine weeks, a coalition of 18 aid agencies working in six countries directly affected by the Syrian crisis, has warned.

Marking the UN’s World Refugee Day, the coalition said it was deeply concerned about the alarming escalation of refugee numbers, which is being fuelled by the relentless fighting in Syria.

Hugh Fenton, Chair of the Syrian INGO Regional Forum, said: “The plight of Syrian refugees is on a staggering scale – and as the violence and bloodshed continue in Syria, the number of people fleeing the country rises uncontrollably.”

Fenton said when refugees arrive in the host countries, they “are bewildered and exhausted – not knowing what their future holds. A generation of Syrian children has witnessed brutal violence, women and girls have been victims of rape and abuses, and they will all continue to suffer while in exile.”

“We must ensure that all those affected – registered or unregistered refugees, within and outside camps – receive the urgent assistance they need, and their basic needs for life are met,” he added.
The official number of Syrian refugees is rapidly growing above 1.6 million − with Lebanon and Jordan hosting the majority. But the official figures do not reflect the full picture and many thousands more are unregistered, lacking regular access to essential aid.   

Over 77% of the total refugee population are living in urban areas, outside official camps, with little or no opportunities to earn a living. While host country governments and communities and aid agencies are doing all they can to help, Syrian refugees need urgent access to basic services, including shelter, health, water and sanitation and education.

The aid agencies warn that too many are trapped in a vicious cycle, finding it increasingly difficult to cope.

High rental accommodation costs are driving many into debt or into inadequate shelter, exposing them and their families to health risks and further extreme stress.

Healthcare facilities in overcrowded host communities are stretched to the limit. In Jordan, for example, the number of hospital visits by refugees grew from 300 per month in January 2012 to 10,000 visits this past March. In Lebanon, refugees are struggling to pay for their 25% share of hospitalisation.

The aid agencies have called in vain for a sustained response to the refugee crisis – underlining the critical need for a long-term vision by the international community of how best to meet the needs of refugees and hosting communities.

The current UN appeals (calling for over $4 billion) are less than a third funded and the aid agencies are urging donor countries to dig deep and find the money that is desperately needed to adequately fund the humanitarian response.

Fenton said: “Of course a response on this scale is costly. But the lives of so many Syrians have been devastated. The international community cannot look the other way. Committed funds, not just pledges, are needed urgently.”

“Refugees could be staying in host countries for months or years, it is critical that they are able to live with dignity and have livelihood options that help them to cover basic costs.”

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