Failure to close the funding gap to meet the needs of the growing number of people fleeing the conflict in Syria could mean grave risks for the refugees as well as for the stability of the region, according to the United Nations refugee agency.
The warning comes as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) prepares to present an updated 2014 Syria Regional Response Plan tomorrow in Geneva, calling on donors to fund a $3.74 billion programme across Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
The Plan aims to save lives, prevent harm, protect the vulnerable and strengthen the capacity and resilience of refugees and host communities as the crisis deepens into its fourth year.
“Failing to provide enough humanitarian support for Syrian refugees by the end of 2014 could result in dramatic consequences for refugees and the stability of the entire region, including a serious security threat to Lebanon,” said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
“We have a situation of heightened volatility in the region, a spill-over of the conflict into Iraq, and continued outflows of refugees into neighbouring countries grappling with very complex security and humanitarian issues,” he said.
There are currently 2.9 million Syrian refugees registered in the region, with numbers growing at a rate of 100,000 people every month, according to UNHCR.
Thanks to $1.1 billion in contributions to the Syria Regional Response Plan, UNHCR and its partners have been able to meet many of the food, health, education and protection needs of refugees.
However, the agency noted that this amount is only 30 per cent of the revised requirements against the new estimate of 3.6 million Syrian refugees in the region by the end of 2014.
Mr. Guterres highlighted some of the hardships and risks facing refugees if the necessary funding is not forthcoming. These include an increased number of women and children at risk of violence, exploitation and abuse if vulnerable people cannot be identified and supported, and reduced food rations and voucher values and increased acute malnutrition rates.
Millions of already vulnerable children and families will also risk contracting diarrhoea, typhoid, polio and other water-borne and contagious disease due to poor hygiene and lack of sustained access to clean water, compounded by growing water crises facing Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
“The international community simply cannot afford to let this growing and increasingly protracted population of refugees fall through the cracks. Nor can we fail to support the countries who generously host them,” said Mr. Guterres.