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The choices increasing numbers of Syrians face: hunger or Europe

Publisher: DPA, Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Author: By Thomas Burmeister, dpa
Story date: 20/09/2015
Language: English

Europe is transfixed by a flood of Syrian refugees. The UN points out that the world has been contributing to this trend by only sending a trickle of aid money to help them stay in the Middle East.

Geneva (dpa) – The plight of millions of Syrian refugees is neatly translated into numbers twice a week at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

At their regular briefings in the 1930s art deco palace, UN aid organizations report on how many migrants have arrived where, how many have drowned, and how many do not have enough to eat.

They have also been providing data on the capacities of countries to take in refugees, and prognoses on migratory trends from conflict areas, giving governments around the world ample opportunities to preempt and prepare for what is often described as a "wave" or a "flood" in the West.

UN refugee agency, UNHCR is one of the bodies that has been not only calling on governments to come up with more generous immigration policies for refugees, but also to help the nearly 4.1 million Syrians who have fled to Middle Eastern countries.

"For hundreds of thousands of them, life is becoming increasingly difficult," UNCHR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told dpa.

There was a trend among refugees to say "I have nothing to lose and will risk my life to attempt to get to Europe," Fleming said.

One of the main reasons for this dynamic is the lack of government contributions to UN agencies and aid organizations, especially when it comes to food aid.

As a result, refugee families have been taking their children out of school and have been sending them to work in fields, making them beg, marrying them off or even prostituting them, UN aid agencies have reported.

UN bodies regularly coordinate financial needs for crisis situations and issue international appeals to governments to donate billions of dollars.

The response, however, is often a trickle of funds rather than a flood of money.

UN agencies had sought 7.4 billion dollars for 2015 for their Syria operations.

Only 37 per cent of this sum has reached their accounts or has been pledged so far.

The situation is hardly better when it comes to their plan of spending 4.5 billion dollars to aid Syrians who have fled to neighbouring countries.

The financing of this appeal currently stands at 41 per cent.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has reduced or cut food support for refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt, the countries that have received the largest numbers of Syrians.

The monthly value of food vouchers per person had to be halved for 850,000 people – to 13.50 dollars in Lebanon, and to 14 dollars in Jordan.

WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said the cuts also affected WFP's operations inside Syria. "Families have to eat smaller meals, less frequently," she said.

"It's horrible if you have to tell a mother who wants to feed her children: 'We can't help you any better because we don't receive enough donations'," Luescher added.

"The inadequate financing is a contributing factor for why people move on to Europe," she said.
 

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