Statements by High Commissioner, 7 June 2013
Geneva, 7 June 2013
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us today. After more than two years of conflict in Syria, this is the fifth version of the Syria Regional Response Plan – a reflection of the enormity of this crisis, and of the dramatic speed with which it has deteriorated, especially in recent months. There are now some 1.6 million Syrian refugees in the region. More than one million of them have arrived since the beginning of 2013 – an average of 7,000 people every single day. And the impact this crisis is having on host countries is becoming nearly too much to bear.
The Regional Response Plan requests some 2.9 billion US Dollars, with 2 billion outstanding, on behalf of 84 humanitarian agencies to provide basic lifesaving assistance and protection for an expected 3.5 million Syrian refugees by the end of the year, together with as many as 100,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria, and some 1.8 million people from host communities, including 49 000 Lebanese returnees that IOM is supporting.
We are also presenting interventions planned by the governments of Lebanon and Jordan appealing for some 449 and 380 million US Dollars respectively, to help address the very heavy impact the refugee influx is having on their countries. UNHCR and its partners have worked closely with these Governments to ensure the appeals are fully complementary with the RRP and make the most efficient use of available resources and expertise. This is far from representing the true financial impact of the crisis on Jordan and Lebanon, nor on Turkey for that matter, where the government has made a huge contribution in directly assisting hundreds of thousands of refugees. With the appeals presented here, donors can fund the UN and other agencies participating in the RRP as well as provide direct bilateral support to the host countries.
Figures only give a glimpse of the immense human tragedy that lies behind each individual refugee. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to talk with refugee children left with the deep scars on their bodies and souls by what they have lived through. A whole generation of young Syrians is marked forever by violence and trauma. Children like little Shada, whom we saw in the film and that I hope to visit in one week time.
The Syria conflict is, without a doubt, the one with the most dangerous regional and global impact on peace and security, and the worst humanitarian consequences, we have faced in a very long time. Throughout it, countries in the region – Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt – have allowed refugees to find safety. Theirs has been the biggest contribution of all, which has literally saved hundreds of thousands of lives and we are very grateful for that. But their generosity comes at an increasingly heavy price. We appeal to all countries, not only those neighbouring Syria, to allow all refugees to access safety. And for this to continue more international financial support, and more burden-sharing initiatives to provide protection, are required to help mitigate the crushing impact on Syria's immediate neighbours.
In Lebanon, we now assist over half a million of refugees in over 1,200 locations, and many more have not yet come forward for registration. There is not a single Lebanese town or village that has not been affected by the arrival of Syrian refugees. In Jordan, registration figures are also approaching 500,000, and although there are several camps, three quarters of the refugees live in urban areas, several of them very poor. Both Lebanon and Jordan allow access to public services like health care and education. Both countries face serious economic and political challenges as a result of the Syria crisis. Both need and deserve much more substantial support from the international community to help them cope.
In Turkey, the Government has been leading the response and is hosting some 200,000 refugees in 17 camps. Registration and assistance activities have also now started in urban areas and the total number of registered Syrians in Turkey now stands at over 370,000. More than 150,000 refugees have arrived in Iraq, and 76,000 in Egypt, with tens of thousands of others more having gone to Europe and North Africa.
Allow me to add a few extra words on the particularly vulnerable situation of the Palestinian refugees who were forced to leave Syria – more than 60,000, most of them having fled to Lebanon. With nowhere to go, this vulnerable and sensitive population needs strong additional support, by our sister agency UNRWA, to have their safety and rights respected and to increase their resilience in a very delicate regional context.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The previous version of the Regional Response Plan, launched in December, received more than USD 840 million to help cover the basic needs of a much lower number of refugees up until this month. More than fifty agencies participated in this earlier response plan. Like the
Emergency Relief Coordinator, I am enormously grateful to all the donors who have supported the appeal.
Donor funding has helped us and our sister agencies to scale up protection and assistance quickly as refugee arrivals have escalated. WFP, for example, has provided food to over 700,000 Syrian refugees in the region, introducing a food voucher programme that has increased refugees' dignity and helped to mitigate social tensions. UNICEF and partners vaccinated over half a million refugee and local children against measles and provided tens of thousands of children with safe spaces to learn and play, in addition to many other activities. Medical assistance has been provided to hundreds of thousands of refugees, and I am particularly grateful to WHO. Several agencies have programmes underway to prevent sexual violence and support survivors.
It is impossible to reflect here the full breadth and depth of the assistance provided by our NGO colleagues – Caritas, DRC, IRC, IRD, Islamic Relief, Mercy Corps, NRC, Oxfam, Save the Children, and World Vision to name just a few. They and many other international and national NGOs have made a phenomenal contribution to what has been achieved so far for Syrian refugees.
But even though we have been able to scale up humanitarian assistance considerably, the reality is that since January there are 200,000 new refugees every month, and the gap between needs and resources is growing by the day. Most refugees have lost everything and need urgent assistance. The funds we are appealing for cover the basic protection and lifesaving interventions until the end of this year. The USD 840 million that have been provided so far cover about 28% of the needs in the revised RRP we are launching today.
These include urgent protection priorities – registering people so they can access assistance, child protection programmes, psychosocial support to traumatized and vulnerable persons, and helping rape survivors and other victims of sexual violence. A large part of the RRP covers basic needs, most importantly food, shelter, bedding and other key household items, clean water and sanitary facilities, health care and education. Another priority is emergency preparedness, including prepositioning relief items and contingency planning, in close coordination with the host governments and all the partners.
Finally, this appeal takes a holistic planning approach including needs of host communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, recognizing that three in four Syrian refugees live outside of camps, and often in very poor areas. But this support only represents a drop in the ocean. It is essential that development agencies and international financial institutions become more engaged with the host countries and provide the necessary link between humanitarian relief and longer-term development request.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to all our partners who have been involved in the refugee response and in drawing up the appeal we are presenting here today. The RRP is the result of very extensive consultations with 5 host governments, 13 UN agencies, IOM and over 70 NGOs and Red Cross/Red Crescent societies following field based needs assessments. And let me express here my deep appreciation to the staff members of all organizations on the ground for their courage, determination and competence.
There are coordination mechanisms for each sector, often co-chaired with NGO partners, and tailored to the very different needs and operational circumstances in each country. This appeal is fully aligned with the host government plans. It is also the result of strategic joint planning with the Emergency Relief Coordinator and her team working on the SHARP for needs inside Syria. This has been a massive effort by all partners involved, and I would like to commend and thank everyone who has helped to put it together to be presented to you here today – the largest humanitarian appeal ever for a refugee operation.
The amounts required are on a scale that is difficult to picture. As I have said many times before, and as the Emergency Relief Coordinator has mentioned in her remarks today, it is painfully clear that traditional aid budgets of donor governments will not be sufficient to cover the enormous needs generated by the Syrian crisis, and that support will have to come from broader funding mechanisms. Fortunately, this is now being increasingly understood by some key humanitarian players. Just to give a few examples, the European Commission has just approved a comprehensive extraordinary package of assistance with humanitarian and non-humanitarian support for the Syria situation. The US Congress has significantly increased the US Government migration and refugee account enabling it to better respond to the crisis. The Government of Kuwait recently made an unprecedented contribution from an Arab state to the UN appeals to assist Syrians inside and outside the country. I hope these examples and others will be multiplied by other actors.
This is probably the most challenging humanitarian operation in decades, and what we really need is that the international community overcomes divisions and unites, to stop the brutal fighting in Syria and find a political solution, as the Emergency Relief Coordinator has mentioned. Until then, we cannot fail in our obligation to show solidarity with the Syrian people and try to alleviate their suffering. Our support is a moral imperative, a matter of survival for hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and existential for the neighbouring countries. In this extremely volatile context, humanitarian action is absolutely crucial, not only to assist the victims, but also as a factor in maintaining regional stability in the context of an increased risk of the conflict spilling over into other countries. To fund these humanitarian appeals is a matter not only of generosity but also of enlightened self-interest.
Thank you very much.