The United Nations is reportedly predicting a potential massive increase in Syrian refugees in the coming year should fighting between the government and rebels continue, increasing the number of those who have fled their homes by up to four million.
Since it began in 2011, the crisis in Syria has spawned at least 4 million refugees and internally displaced peoples. A meeting between various U.N. organizations, the International Organization on Migration, and others on Sept. 26 in Jordan to discuss how to coordinate requests for humanitarian aid in 2014 highlighted the fact that the problem was more likely to get worse before it gets better. According to Reuters, at the meeting the U.N. revealed that it now believes it’s likely that 2 million Syrians will become refugees next year and 2.25 million more will be displaced within the country.
“[The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA)] forecast that up to 8.3 million people – or more than a third of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million – would be in need by the end of 2014, a 37 percent increase over 2013, including 6.5 million internally displaced people, a 54 percent increase,” Reuters reports.
Despite the massive scale of migration seen in Syria, the efforts to provide the aid that those who have escaped the fighting need is constantly underfunded. As of last week, the 2013 request for aid remained $461 million short of the levels needed. The United States has since the conflict started donated more than $1 billion, but that has not been enough finance the 126 organizations on the ground helping to manage the regional response.
Reports from Lebanon, home to approximately three-quarters of a million Syrians, illustrate the difficulties that refugees face once they’ve fled their homes. “Humanitarian response partners have noted an increase in the number of Syrian refugees being evicted from their places of residence throughout September,” the UN High Commissioner on Refugees’ latest report on Syria reads. “Reasons for eviction include ongoing inability to pay rent on time, or because refugees have settled on private land.”
The United Nations Security Council last week called for full access of humanitarian aid within Syria in a non-binding statement, the first of its kind since the struggle began. “The Security Council calls on all parties to respect the UN guiding principles of humanitarian emergency assistance and stresses the importance of such assistance being delivered on the basis of need, devoid of any political prejudices and aims,” the statement reads. The Council also condemned the “widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities” as well as any the rebels have committed.
“This consensus statement clearly calls on all parties to do their utmost to end the violence and stop targeting civilians,” wrote Valarie Amos, the head of UN OCHA, after the statement’s passage. “It also reminds them that they must facilitate the swift provision of vital humanitarian aid and that there are serious consequences for violating international humanitarian and human rights law. Our task now is to turn these strong words into meaningful action for the children, women and men who continue to be the victims of the brutality and violence.”
Unfortunately, it seems the Syrian government has yet to heed the Security Council’s words as the fighting rages on. Reports emerged last week of the regime choking off food meant for the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, the victim of the chemical attack in August that left hundreds of civilians dead. Soldiers reportedly confiscate food, baby milk and medicine from civilians at checkpoints within the neighborhood, causing malnutrition among pregnant mothers and children, and leading to claims that some babies have already died of starvation.