UNHCR and partners seek US$1 billion as Syrian refugee exodus grows

The updated appeal is based on planning estimates that up to 1 million Syrian refugees will need help in the first half of 2013.

Young Syrian refugees look out from the door of their family's tent at a camp in Turkey. The number of refugees is expected to continue growing in the region.  © UNHCR/B.Sokol

GENEVA, December 19 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency and its partners today appealed to international donors for US$1 billion to support refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

The new Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees sets out the funding needs of 55 humanitarian organizations in providing vital protection and assistance for civilians fleeing Syria during the first six months of 2013.

"This massive humanitarian crisis requires urgent support from governments, businesses and private individuals," said Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR's regional coordinator for Syrian refugees. "Unless these funds come quickly, we will not be able to fully respond to the life-saving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day - many in a truly desperate condition."

The US$1 billion appeal is based on planning estimates that up to 1 million Syrian refugees will need help during the first half of 2013.

Also on Wednesday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Radhouane Nouicer announced a US$519.6 million appeal for inside Syria. The funds will be used to provide aid to a 4 million people inside Syria, half of whom have been displaced from their homes. He described the three main dangers faced by Syrians as being insecurity and mass violence, the cold and lack of basic services and items. "All three are killers", he told donors.

Some 525,000 Syrians have to date either registered as refugees in the countries immediately surrounding Syria or are being assisted. This is a seven-fold increase since May, when just 70,000 Syrians had registered for help. Many more Syrians are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, but have not yet registered.

"We are constantly shocked by the horrific stories refugees tell us," said Moumtzis. "Their lives are in turmoil. They have lost their homes and family members. By the time they reach the borders, they are exhausted, traumatized and with little or no resources to rely on."

The 2013 plan aims at redoubling efforts to protect vulnerable refugees, with a big emphasis on community outreach to those living in cities and towns. Much of this work is conducted by the 43 national and international NGOs included in the appeal.

Specific activities focusing on children, women, older people and survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence are planned for.

"Children make up roughly half of the refugees crowded into camps and host communities across five countries, and their numbers rise inexorably," said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Maria Calivis. "The evolving situation on the ground has outpaced our efforts to raise the necessary funds. Today, a further response to the desperate plight of Syrian children is once more urgently required."

Since July, Syrian refugees have fled the conflict for neighbouring countries at a rate of 2,000-3,000 a day. The 2013 plan prioritizes support for new arrivals, assistance to hosting communities and plans for construction of new camps.

As the crisis continues to deteriorate inside Syria, there is significant attention given to emergency preparedness in the plan, with regional warehouses being restocked with tents, blankets and basic household items.

The updated regional response plan for the first time includes Egypt, where more than 10,400 Syrians have been registered to date. According to government figures, tens of thousands more are in the country. Another new development in the plan is support for the UN Relief and Works Agency activities for Palestinians who have fled Syria for Lebanon.

This appeal is the fourth update of the Syria Regional Response Plan, first launched last March. The 2012 Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees received 70 per cent of the US$487 million appealed for.