With United Nations efforts to tackle the Syrian refugee crisis reaching “breaking point” due to a massive shortfall in funds, a senior official warned today that the exodus of people fleeing the conflict could balloon to four million by the end of the year absent a political solution.
To date Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq are hosting over 1.3 million Syrians but the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stressed today that aid efforts was being hobbled lack of funding, with only some $300 million dollars so far received out of the requested $1 billion. A year ago there were only 30,000 Syrian refugees in the three countries.
“We feel we have reached a breaking point,” UNHCR Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees Panos Moumtzis told a news briefing in Geneva, warning that with aid agencies providing just the bare minimum the shortfall was likely to expose the refugees, especially women and children, to exploitation as they try to provide for their families.
“So the situation is critical,” he said, voicing the hope that the $300 million that Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had each promised at a recent pledging conference, would soon arrive. “What we are worried of is sexual exploitation of women and children being put into labour.”
Some 7,000 Syrian refugees are now registering each day. UNHCR said priorities requiring urgent funding include the construction of new camps to decongest existing camps where sanitary services are falling below standards due to overcrowding.
In Lebanon, which already has more than 400,000 registered Syrian refugees, the UN Special Coordinator for the country, Derek Plumbly, and UNHCR Representative Ninette Kelley today visited a newly opened registration centre in Tyre, in the south.
In an update on the crisis, in which over 70,000 people have been killed and more than three million displaced both within and outside the country since the uprising against President al-Assad began in March 2011, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 1.2 million houses have been destroyed or damaged in the conflict.
Despite worsening security, a UN inter-agency convoy managed to deliver measles, mumps and rubella vaccines for 500,000 children up to 15 years old in the ravaged Aleppo region, OCHA added. Two million Syrians received food aid last month, including 500,000 people in opposition-held parts of the country.
Also today, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today also announced the impending visit of UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin to Turkey’s Nizip camp on 13 April and Jordan’s Za’atari camp the following day as part of the UN agency’s efforts “to underscore the urgent needs of women and youth affected by the crisis in Syria.”
Mr. Osotimehin will meet women and young people living in both camps and “underline to partners, government officials and stakeholders the importance of addressing the urgent needs of pregnant and lactating women and providing lifesaving services to survivors of gender-based violence,” the UN agency said in a press release.
UNFPA is directly supporting reproductive health care services in three refugee camps throughout Jordan, providing assistance to an estimated 15,000 refugees while, in Turkey, the agency has provided 40,000 dignity kits to refugees in the 14 camps set up by local authorities with another 20,000 expected to be delivered shortly.