Wednesday, March 6, 2013
GENEVA — The relentless exodus of Syrians fleeing two years of increasingly violent conflict pushed the number of refugees in neighboring countries passed the million mark on Wednesday, theUnited Nations Refugee Agency said, warning that resources for helping them are dangerously thin.
The total number of Syrians fleeing for safety to surrounding countries is much higher, United Nations officials said, but as the conflict approaches the start of its third year the number who have registered as refugees or are seeking assistance has increased by around 420,000 this year.
Around 7,000 to 8,000 Syrians are leaving the country daily, refugee agency officials reported, adding that more than half of the arrivals are children, mostly under the age of 11.
“With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said in a statement. “The international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped.”
Around 330,000 Syrians have sought shelter in Lebanon and close to 320,000 in Jordan, the refugee agency reported, with more than 185,000 in Turkey, 105,000 in Iraq, 43,500 in Egypt and around 8,000 across North Africa. Others have fled to Europe, it said.
To illustrate the strain this influx has imposed on Syria’s neighbors, the refugee agency said the population of Lebanon has swelled by 10 percent, Jordan’s energy and water capacity as well as its health and education services are stretched to the limit and Turkey had spent $600 million building 17 camps to house arrivals and more are under construction.
In a separate report a day earlier, the United Nations depicted the collapse of Syria’s education system, saying that thousands of schools have been damaged or converted into shelters for civilians and that many children have not attended class since the conflict began two years ago.
An additional worry for relief agencies is that the financing received from donors has failed to keep pace with the accelerating scale of refugee needs.
The United Nations said it has received only around 20 percent of the $1.5 billion it requested in December to cover relief efforts for around four million people in desperate need of aid inside Syria as well as the million who are now outside during the first half of 2013. The number of refugees has accelerated faster than projected in that appeal.
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