Number of displaced people grows as Syria violence continues, says UN agency
The humanitarian crisis generated by the ongoing Syrian conflict is rapidly growing as refugees from the Middle Eastern country continue to flee the ongoing violence and spill over into neighbouring areas, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the amount of registered refugees seeking sanctuary in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and Iraq has grown by over 12,000 – increasing from 157,577 to 170,116 in just the past three days.
The agency has noted, however, that the real number of refugees was likely to be higher than the reported amount as not all refugees were registering with authorities.
Syria has been wracked by violence, with an estimated 17,000 people, mostly civilians, killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 17 months ago. In the previous two weeks, there have been reports of an escalation in violence in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Damascus and Aleppo.
Pointing to the situation in Turkey, a UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, told a media briefing in Geneva, that the country had witnessed “a further sharp rise” in the number of Syrians crossing its borders.
“UNHCR is scaling up its humanitarian assistance in Turkey and will provide family tents, blankets, kitchen sets and other relief on an emergency basis to assist the Government of Turkey in addressing urgent needs,” Mr. Edwards said, adding that with the latest arrivals there were now almost 65,000 Syrians spread across nine Turkish refugee camps.
Mr. Edwards also noted that the situation in Jordan, where refugee numbers were also climbing, was equally grim. Over 60 per cent of those arriving at the country’s Za’atri camp in the past week have been children and the camp was now hosting some 7,655 people.
“At the Za’atri camp we are working to improve conditions for the refugees, including the possibility of replacing tents with prefabs,” he said, speaking of UNHCR’s relief efforts. “More sanitation facilities are also being built and the ratio of people to toilets is improving.”
Along with the refugee agency’s presence, Mr. Edwards told reporters that UNICEF was also actively participating in relief efforts at Za’atri, bringing in water to the camp on a daily basis, while the World Food Programme (WFP) was providing over 12,000 meals a day.
In Iraq, where an estimated 15,096 Syrians have sought refuge, the spokesperson said that UNHCR will continue to help local authorities expand a camp in Al-Qaem while discussions for a fourth camp in the Al-Kasak area of Rabi’aa were underway.
Despite the recent reports indicating an escalation in violence across the country, Mr. Edwards also noted that UNHCR operations in Syria were continuing undeterred, providing refugees with food, registration and counselling.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) today warned that a lack of access to medical facilities, compounded with severe staffing shortages in hospitals, was further aggravating the Syrian health care system.
Speaking at a press briefing in Geneva, WHO’s Director of the Department of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response, Dr. Richard Brennan, said that the UN health agency would continue to support four mobile clinics, serving approximately 90,000 people in the governorates of Rural Damascus and Homs.