UNHCR warns of funding shortfall for operations to help Syrian refugees

News Stories, 20 April 2012

© UNHCR/F.Juez
Members of a Syrian family register as refugees in northern Lebanon.

GENEVA, April 20 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday said the United Nations and its partners are implementing essential programmes to assist Syrian refugees and their host communities despite the slow response to a funding appeal last month for US$84 million to help Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

"Less than 20 per cent of the funds have been given," Melissa Fleming, chief UNHCR spokesperson, told journalists in Geneva. "Of the 34 organizations that have appealed for funds under the Syria Regional Response Plan, only eight have received funding to date totalling US$15.6 million dollars," she added.

Agencies that provide life-saving 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," Fleming said.

More than 61,000 Syrian refugees are being assisted in the region, including 21,000 in Lebanon, 13,751 in Jordan, 23,971 in Turkey and 2,376 in Iraq. 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.

Fleming said assistance programmes were being implemented despite the funding shortage. "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," Fleming said.

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 enrolment of children in schools. The UN Children's Fund (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 more than 30,000 Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon. World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food to refugees in Jordan and has reached an agreement to start operations in Lebanon.

Numerous aid organizations, including Caritas, the Jordan Health Aid Society and the International Medical Corps, are supporting health care for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. UNICEF is providing immunization coverage and care. Non-governmental organizations 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.

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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.

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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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