UN humanitarian agencies announce major new funding push for Syria crisis

News Stories, 7 June 2013

© UNHCR/J.Kohler
A mother and her children ponder a bleak future at a refugee camp in Jordan. Today's billion-dollar appeal is aimed at helping them and millions of other Syrians.

GENEVA, June 7 (UNHCR) UN humanitarian agencies on Friday called on donor nations to provide billions of dollars in additional funding to help millions of desperate Syrians inside and outside their country.

The appeal, which covers all of 2013, comprises US$2.9 billion for the UNHCR-led plan to help refugees in the surrounding region, and US$1.4 billion for the OCHA-led humanitarian efforts inside Syria. In addition are a new US$449 million government of Lebanon appeal and a US$380 million appeal by the government of Jordan.

In all, this is the largest-ever humanitarian appeal, together amounting to more than US$5 billion. It updates an earlier UN funding appeal, for which some US$1.2 billion has been received so far.

The appeal was unveiled to media at a press conference in Geneva's Palais des Nations by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, who both stressed that civilians were bearing the brunt of the conflict in Syria. More than 1.6 million people have fled to neighbouring countries since the conflict erupted in March 2011, while some 4.25 million are believed to be displaced within Syria and many more are affected by the war.

"Syria as a civilization is unraveling with as many as half of its citizens in need of urgent help as a result of this savage conflict," said Guterres. "The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians and they are essential for neighbouring countries that are hosting refugees."

The UNHCR-led element in Friday's appeal the Regional Response Plan revises upwards the last appeal in December 2012, when UNHCR and its partners sought US$1 billion to provide life-saving aid and protection to Syrian refugees in the immediate surrounding region.

That appeal was based on predictions that the refugee population would be about 1.1 million in June. The figure today is 1.6 million and growing. UNHCR now estimates there could be up to 3.45 million Syrian refugees by year's end. The OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) appeal estimates that 6.8 million people inside Syria will be affected by the conflict and in need of help.

The fresh appeal comes a day after the European Union announced that it was contributing up to €400 million for the Syria situation until the end of the year. The EU donation is the largest so far to the Syria crisis and is expected to go towards the regional refugee response as well as humanitarian needs inside Syria.

These needs are great. In the last few months, the UN, Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other international and local humanitarian organizations in Syria have fed up to 2.4 million people per month, vaccinated more than 1 million children against measles and polio, made drinking water safe for over 9 million people and provided nearly 920,000 people with basic relief items. But this is not enough.

With new funding, humanitarian organizations aim to scale up operations and feed 4 million Syrians and 420,000 Palestinian refugees; immunize 1.7 million children; provide nearly 7 million people with health care and 10 million with safe drinking water especially with the summer approaching and waterborne diseases on the rise. Education, protection and community services, sanitation, shelter and farming support are all vital for vulnerable communities. Finding ways to deliver aid to the 2.9 million people living across conflict lines is a top priority.

Today's new regional response plan covers only life-saving assistance and protection for refugees further underlining the scale of the crisis. Participating humanitarian agencies are aiming to assist the most vulnerable, including members of refugee-hosting communities, with critical programmes, including food, shelter and cash assistance.

Syrians are increasingly vulnerable to many different types of exploitation, and the communities they are living with are also facing difficulties in coping with this vulnerable and impoverished population. Enhanced efforts are under way to identify and support the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and women. More targeted programmes are being developed to support survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.

Governments in the region are also feeling the strain, with public services stretched to their limits. The generosity of host countries has come at a heavy price. The Syrian conflict is posing a threat to the entire region with dramatic implications for regional security. There are rising tensions between refugees and host communities and cross-border incidents are becoming increasingly common.

Read the Syria Regional Response Plan (Update 5) here

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Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

The violence inside Syria continues to drive people from their homes, with some seeking shelter elsewhere in their country and others risking the crossing into neighbouring countries. The United Nations estimates that up to 4 million people are in need of help, including some 2 million believed to be internally displaced.

The UN refugee agency has 350 staff working inside Syria. Despite the insecurity, they continue to distribute vital assistance in the cities of Damascus, Aleppo, Al Hassakeh and Homs. Thanks to their work and dedication, more than 350,000 people have received non-food items such as blankets, kitchen sets and mattresses. These are essential items for people who often flee their homes with no more than the clothes on their backs. Cash assistance has been given to more than 10,600 vulnerable Syrian families.

Displaced inside Syria: UNHCR and its Dedicated Staff help the Needy

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