UNHCR warns of funding shortfall for Syrian refugees

Briefing Notes, 20 April 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 20 April 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

One month after the United Nations and its humanitarian partners issued an appeal for US$84 million to help Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, less than twenty per cent of the funds have been given. Of the 34 organisations that have appealed for funds under the Syria Regional Response Plan, only eight have received funding to date totaling US$15.6 million dollars.

Agencies that provide lifesaving support need the funds to be able to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs. According to UNHCR and its partners in the region, both the refugees and the countries hosting them are beginning to show signs of strain. Many refugees arrived with little or no financial resources, so are mostly reliant on the efforts of the host community and organizations dedicated to supporting them.

Over 61,000 Syrian refugees are being assisted in the region (Lebanon: 21,000, Jordan: 13,751, Turkey: 23,971 and Iraq: 2,376). Of this number, over 45,000 have been registered by the authorities and UNHCR. They have all maintained an open borders policy for Syrian refugees.

Despite the lack of funding, the UN and its partners continue to implement essential programmes to assist the refugees and support their host communities.

Highlights of the programmes led by UNHCR include the airlifting of tents and blankets to Turkey, a cash assistance programme in Jordan, outreach programmes to identify the most vulnerable in Jordan and Lebanon and rehabilitation of homes and community centres in Jordan and Lebanon.

Children are particularly badly affected by the crisis, with many showing signs of trauma and grave distress. In Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon the governments are actively encouraging the enrollment of children in schools. UNICEF is supporting education programmes, psychosocial support and child friendly spaces in Jordan and Lebanon.

Food and basic household items are a key concern for many refugees who have little or no financial resources. UNHCR has provided food and household items to over 30,000 Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon. WFP is providing food assistance to refugees in Jordan and has reached an agreement to start operations in Lebanon.

Numerous NGOs, including Caritas, the Jordan Health Aid Society and the International Medical Corps are supporting healthcare for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. UNICEF is providing immunization coverage and care. NGOs are also playing an important role in community outreach.

The Syria Regional Response Plan outlines the response needs for Syrian refugees who have fled the country since March 2011. The plan is an inter-agency framework led by UNHCR and the result of a coordinated effort between seven UN agencies, 27 national and international NGOs and host governments.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Melissa Fleming on mobile +41 79 557 91 22
  • In Geneva: Sybella Wilkes on mobile +41 79 557 91 38
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2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Beyond the Border

In 2010, the Turkish border with Greece became the main entry point for people attempting by irregular methods to reach member states of the European Union, with over 132,000 arrivals. While some entered as migrants with the simple wish of finding a better life, a significant number fled violence or persecution in countries such as Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq and Somalia. The journey is perilous, with many reports of drowning when people board flimsy vessels and try to cross the Mediterranean Sea or the River Evros on the border between Greece and Turkey. The many deficiencies in the Greek asylum system are exacerbated by the pressure of tens of thousands of people awaiting asylum hearings. Reception facilities for new arrivals, including asylum-seekers, are woefully inadequate. Last year, UNHCR visited a number of overcrowded facilities where children, men and women were detained in cramped rooms with insufficient facilities. UNHCR is working with the Greek government to improve its asylum system and has called upon other European states to offer support.

Beyond the Border

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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