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UN High Commissioner for Refugees welcomes EU funding support of €400 million for Syria crisis

Press Releases, 6 June 2013

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today welcomed the announcement by the EU of a major new contribution of €400 million for the Syria situation in 2013.

The funding announced by the EU is among the largest so far to the Syria crisis by any donor. The €400 million is expected to go towards the regional refugee response as well as humanitarian needs inside Syria. UNHCR understands that €250 million will be used to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in Syria and neighboring countries while €150 million is allotted for development-related aid that includes support to communities hosting refugees and security for refugee camps.

"This funding is extremely important and very, very timely," said High Commissioner Guterres. "Syria is fast becoming one of the most tragic, most dangerous, and largest crises since the end of the Cold War, and it is causing suffering on an enormous scale. The urgency of needs is difficult to overstate."

The Syria situation has grown rapidly in recent months, with thousands of people fleeing across borders daily, and placing strain on neighbouring countries as they cope with the inflows. UN humanitarian agencies are expected to announce on Friday (June 7) a major new funding push, among which will be an appeal for targeted funds in support of two of the largest refugee-hosting countries, Jordan and Lebanon.

In view of the extraordinary scale and nature of the crisis, and to prevent exhaustion of donor funding for the world's other current displacement emergencies among them Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Myanmar High Commissioner Guterres, along with his counterparts at OCHA, WFP and UNICEF, has in recent months appealed to governments worldwide to establish dedicated budgets for Syria.

Mr. Guterres today reiterated this appeal.

"We are facing a catastrophic situation in Syria, but we must not forget that on a daily basis thousands of people are being forcibly displaced in other regions and countries where there is conflict," he said. "I encourage other donors to come forward as the European Union has done today."

For more information, please contact:

In Brussels:

  • Vanessa Saenen: +32 2 627 5932 or +32 476 42 01 34

In Geneva:

  • Melissa Fleming: +41 79 557 9122 fleming@unhcr.org
  • Adrian Edwards: +41 79 557 9120 edwards@unhcr.org
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A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

They are everywhere in Lebanon - 1 million Syrian refugees, in a land of 4.8 million people. There are no refugee camps in Lebanon. Instead, most rent apartments and others live in makeshift shelters and in garages, factories and prisons. Three years after the Syria crisis began, Lebanon has become the country with the highest concentration per capita of refugees in the world. It's struggling to keep pace with the influx. Rents have spiked, accommodation is scarce; food prices are rising. Meanwhile, a generation could be lost. Half of Syria's refugees are children; most don't go to school. Instead many of them work to help their families survive. Some marry early, others must beg to make a bit of money. Yet they share the same dream of getting an education.

In the northern city of Tripoli, many of the Syrians live in Al Tanak district, dubbed "Tin City." Long home to poor locals, it is now a surreal suburb - garbage piled to one side, a Ferris wheel on the other. The inhabitants share their dwellings with rats. "They're as big as cats," said one. "They're not scared of us, we're scared of them."

Award-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario visited Tin City and other areas of Lebanon with UNHCR to show the faces and suffering of Syrians to the world. Addario, in publications such as The New York Times and National Geographic, has highlighted the victims of conflict and rights abuse around the world, particularly women.

A Face in a Million: the Struggle of Syria's Refugees in Lebanon

Syria Crisis Third Anniversary: A Child of the Conflict

Ashraf was born the very day the Syria conflict began: March 15, 2011. He is the seventh child in a family from Homs. Within a week of his birth, the conflict arrived in his neighbourhood. For months his family rarely left the house. Some days there was non-stop bombing, others were eerily quiet. On the quiet days, Ashraf's mother made a run with him to the local health clinic for vaccinations and check-ups.

When Ashraf was about 18 months old, his aunt, uncle and cousin were murdered - their throats slit - as the boy slept nearby in his family's home. Terrified that they were next, Ashraf's family crammed into their car, taking a few precious belongings, and drove to the border.

They left behind their home, built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Within days the house was looted and destroyed. Photographer Andrew McConnell visited the family at their new home, in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, which was also built by Ashraf's father and uncle. Located on the edge of a muddy field, it is a patchwork of plastic sheeting, canvas and scrap metal. The floor is covered with blankets and mattresses from UNHCR. They now face new challenges such as the daily battle to keep the children warm, dry and protected from rats. Ashraf still starts at sudden loud noises, but the doctor told his mother that the boy would get used to it.

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Mahmoud,15, hasn't been to school in 3 years. In his native Syria, his parents were afraid to send him because of the civil war. They ended up fleeing a year ago when, in the early morning hours, a bomb fell on a nearby house. The family, still groggy from being jolted awake, grabbed what they could and fled to Lebanon. Their home and the local school have since been destroyed.

In Lebanon, Mahmoud's father is unable to find work and now the family can barely afford rent.

A month ago, Mahmoud started working for tips cleaning fish at a small shop next to his home. He makes about $60 USD a month. With this money he helps pay rent on his family's tiny underground room, shared between his parents and eight brothers and sisters. Mahmoud is proud to help his family but with the fish shop located in the same subterranean structure as his home, he barely goes out into the sunshine.

Children like Mahmoud, some as young as seven, often work long hours for little pay, and in some cases in dangerous conditions. These children forfeit their future by missing out on an education and the carefree years of childhood. Many are also traumatized by what they witnessed back in Syria.

UNHCR and its partners together with local governments are providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Syrian refugee families cover expenses like rent and medical care, which means there is less need to pull children out of school and put them to work. UN agencies and their partners have also established case management and referral systems in Jordan and Lebanon to identify children at risk and refer them to the appropriate services.

Forced to grow up too soon in Lebanon: Mahmoud

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