The United Nations refugee agency and four countries that border Syria on Wednesday urged the international community to provide greater assistance for the refugee crisis that is engulfing the region because of Syria’s civil war.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) announced this week that more than 2 million Syrians have fled the fighting (more than 1 million are children) and that around 90 percent of those left Syria in the last 12 months. But the real number is likely much higher as it only accounts for those who have registered with the Agency or are awaiting registration. There are around 4.5 million displaced inside Syria.
“A political solution to end this cycle of horror is urgently needed,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said on Wednesday at a press conference with representatives from Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq. “Our central message is these countries need and deserve massive support from the international community, and that support is not yet there and it is essential to have a shift in the way the international community is handling that support.”
The UNHCR in June asked for nearly $5 billion for Syria refugee relief operations but the Agency says that just 40 percent of that total has been funded so far.
Contributions from the United States ($818 million) and the European Commission ($620 million) make up nearly half of all donations, while Russia and China have given less than 1 percent of the total, combined.
The UNHCR will join forces with Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq — the four countries bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis — to raise awareness of the situation and ask for more funding for it.
“We agreed that all four countries would work with UNHCR to deal with the [refugee] crisis on the ground,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. “Today, we decided to have a joint working team and an action plan on how to create this global awareness.”
According to Refugees International, which recently toured refugee camps in Lebanon (720,000 refugees) and Turkey (464,000), “[o]ne of the greatest problems confronting Syrians [in those two countries] is their dwindling or exhausted resources. Refugees have great difficulty finding affordable and safe housing, as well as paying for food, medical care, and other basic necessities. Education is another key concern for refugee families in both countries.”
“Greater international assistance and better coordinated programming are necessary to provide adequate shelter, food, health care, and education to non-camp refugees in a manner that also accounts for the needs of host communities,” Refugees International says.
“At 30 months and counting, we have to move beyond short-term humanitarian responses for Syrian refugees and start to address the immediate to long-term, structural, economic and development impact this crisis is having on the countries hosting them as well. What is happening in Syria will have profound implications for neighbouring states for years to come,” Guterres said on Wednesday announcing the partnership with Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan, adding that failure to act would be an “international failure of historic proportions.” (HT: Ali Gharib)