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International Red Cross Launches Syria Appeal

  • Lisa Schlein

Newly-arrived Syrian refugee families rest after having crossed the border from Tal Shehab in Syria, through the Al Yarmouk River valley, to near Ramtha, Jordan, Sept. 15, 2012.

Newly-arrived Syrian refugee families rest after having crossed the border from Tal Shehab in Syria, through the Al Yarmouk River valley, to near Ramtha, Jordan, Sept. 15, 2012.

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching an emergency appeal for tens of thousands of Syrians who have sought refuge in neighboring Turkey and along the Syrian border. The appeal for $34 million will support the Turkish Red Crescent in providing winter assistance for up to 170,000 people.

The emergency appeal will provide the Turkish Red Crescent with the money it needs to help 100,000 Syrian refugees living in 14 tented camps get through the harsh winter.

The head of the International Red Cross Federation's Disaster and Crisis Management, Simon Eccleshall, said the appeal also aims to help some 20,000 people currently gathered at the Turkish-Syrian border.

"The appeal duration is six months and we will look as the situation evolves as to whether we need to revise and upscale our efforts in response to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis," he said. "We have seen a doubling of the camp population since July 2012 and, I think, as you have seen over the last few days, there has been an increase in the number of Syrians moving into Turkey."

The United Nations refugee agency reports there are more than 400,000 registered refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. It says hundreds of thousands of other Syrian civilians are living with host families and have not registered as refugees.

Due to the increased fighting inside Syria, the agency expects the number of Syrian refugees to increase in the coming months. It says up to 700,000 Syrian refugees could need assistance outside their homeland by early next year.

In a 24-hour period last week, the UNHCR reported more than 11,000 Syrians fled to neighboring countries. About 9,000 went to Turkey and the rest to Jordan and Lebanon.

The Turkish government is absorbing most of the cost of assisting the refugees. The Turkish Red Crescent, an auxiliary to the government, has been providing essential food and non-food relief items to the Syrian refugees.

Eccleshall said the Red Crescent is a crucial link for international aid.

"They are the only organization that the Turkish government allows to work at the border point and recognizing this population in transition, moving across the border…to bring assistance to those people has been, if you like, the motivation for the Turkish Red Crescent to provide, what is essentially quite small kinds of assistance to people who are currently extremely vulnerable and congregating in makeshift shelters on the Syrian side of the border," he explained.

Eccleshall added that aid will include cooking stoves, heaters, blankets and other winter items as well as essential food, hygiene kits and other items.
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