UNHCR appeals for extraordinary funds for Syria victims

News Stories, 13 March 2013

© UNHCR/J.Kohler
UN Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres (left) meets with Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour in Amman earlier today.

AMMAN, Jordan, March 13 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Wednesday urged donor nations to approve extraordinary funds to help Syrian refugees and host countries, warning of dire consequences if funding levels do not rise.

"This is not just any crisis. It requires a special mechanism of support," Guterres told journalists in Amman, following meetings with Jordan's Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour and Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

Appealing to the governments and parliaments of donor countries to approve extraordinary funds, he stressed that "there is no way this can be funded by normal humanitarian aid budgets." Guterres said that if significant new funding was not forthcoming, "the consequences could be devastating for the Syrian people and for regional stability."

The High Commissioner, in a separate meeting on Wednesday with Jordan's King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, reiterated UNHCR's commitment to supporting Jordan as it struggles to cope with the growing number of Syrian civilians streaming across the border and seeking shelter.

Jordan is now host to more than 450,000 Syrian refugees. The majority live in urban areas, but about 100,000 are staying in the Za'atri refugee camp, which Guterres was due to visit later Wednesday. Further camps are planned and UNHCR is working with the government on contingencies in case the situation gets dramatically worse.

UNHCR announced a week ago that the number of Syrian refugees in the region had passed the 1 million mark, but the High Commissioner has warned that at the current inflow rate it could hit the 3 million mark by the end of the year. The Jordanian government believes that hundreds of thousands of Syrians in the border governorate of Dera'a could flee to Jordan if the conflict continues at the current intensity or escalates.

Guterres said that although the growing refugee population was placing great social and economic strain on the country, Jordan had been a "pillar of stability" in the region and had a remarkable record of helping refugees prior to the current crisis, including Palestinians and Iraqis.

He said it was essential that the Jordanian government and its people are supported. "Their sacrifice and generosity is something the international community should recognize and support. This cannot be dealt with in a business-as-usual attitude. "

The High Commissioner also supported the Jordanian government's call for significantly more humanitarian support to the displaced and needy inside Syria. "It is critical that humanitarians can reach people in need wherever they are, whoever they are and whomever they support," he stressed.

More than 2 million Syrians are believed to have been forcibly displaced within Syria since the crisis erupted two years ago and some 4 million have been affected by it. UNHCR works through the Syrian Red Cross to reach out and try to help the vulnerable.

By Melissa Fleming in Amman, Jordan