UNHCR welcomes European Union's €400 million donation for Syria crisis

News Stories, 6 June 2013

© UNHCR/J.Kohler
Young refugees play in an open area of King Abdullah Park refugee camp in Jordan.

GENEVA, June 6 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today welcomed the European Union's announcement of a major new contribution of up to €400 million for the Syria situation until the end of the year.

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 €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," a press release quoted Guterres as saying. "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 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 the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), has in recent months appealed to governments worldwide to establish dedicated budgets for Syria.

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."

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Iraqi Children Go To School in Syria

UNHCR aims to help 25,000 refugee children go to school in Syria by providing financial assistance to families and donating school uniforms and supplies.

There are some 1.4 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, most having fled the extreme sectarian violence sparked by the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra in 2006.

Many Iraqi refugee parents regard education as a top priority, equal in importance to security. While in Iraq, violence and displacement made it difficult for refugee children to attend school with any regularity and many fell behind. Although education is free in Syria, fees associated with uniforms, supplies and transportation make attending school impossible. And far too many refugee children have to work to support their families instead of attending school.

To encourage poor Iraqi families to register their children, UNHCR plans to provide financial assistance to at least 25,000 school-age children, and to provide uniforms, books and school supplies to Iraqi refugees registered with UNHCR. The agency will also advise refugees of their right to send their children to school, and will support NGO programmes for working children.

UNHCR's ninemillion campaign aims to provide a healthy and safe learning environment for nine million refugee children by 2010.

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The UN refugee agency is increasingly alarmed over the continuing violence in Iraq and distressed about the lack of an international humanitarian response to deal with the massive numbers of people being displaced. After an assessment mission in November last year, UNHCR officials warned that the agency was facing an even larger humanitarian crisis than it had prepared for in 2002-03. But UNHCR and other organisations are sorely lacking in funds to cope with the growing numbers of displaced.

In an effort to fill the massive gap in funding, UNHCR in January 2007 launched a US$60 million appeal to cover its protection and assistance programmes for Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey, as well as non Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people within strife torn Iraq.

The longer the Iraq conflict goes on, the more difficult it will become for the hundreds of thousands of displaced and the communities that are trying to help them – both inside and outside Iraq. Because the burden on host communities and governments in the region is enormous, it is essential that the international community support humanitarian efforts.

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