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Lack of Funds Limits Aid to Displaced Syrians

  • Lisa Schlein

Syrian families await their turn to register at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) center in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, April 3, 2014.

Syrian families await their turn to register at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) center in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, April 3, 2014.

The United Nations reports its multi-billion dollar appeal to assist millions of Syrians displaced by conflict remains seriously underfunded. The U.N. warns this funding shortfall is triggering tensions between refugees and the communities hosting them.
Syrian Refugees by Country
  • Lebanon: 1,003,814
  • Turkey: 679,753
  • Jordan: 590,515
  • Iraq: 219,597
  • Egypt: 135,977

Source: UNHCR

In December, the United Nations appealed for a record $6.5 billion to assist some nine million Syrians displaced both within and outside their war-hit country. On Monday, the Kuwaiti government contributed $250 million to this U.N. Fund, with a promise of an additional $250 million in the near future.

Kuwait's generosity has boosted the money received by the United Nations to $1.27 billion. But this still leaves a shortfall of 80 percent. This lack of money is worsening the displacement crisis. U.N. agencies are unable to provide the food, water, shelter, medical and other care desperately needed by the victims of this three-year old civil war.

For example, the World Food Program reports it provided food to a record 4.1 million people displaced inside Syria in March. However, it adds these people have received reduced rations because of the funding shortfall.

On Saturday, one person was killed and dozens wounded during a violent demonstration in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says he hopes this is an isolated incident.

He tells VOA it is very important to make sure adequate assistance is provided to both refugee and local communities to keep tensions from rising

"One of the risks of situations like these is that the relationship between the refugee community and the local, national communities becomes more and more difficult as resources become scarce. Let us not forget that in Jordan, in Lebanon, in other countries, we have more and more people unemployed," he said. "We have more and more people with lower salaries because of the competition in the labor market. We have prices rising, rents rising and that the Syria crisis is having a dramatic impact in the economies and the societies of the neighboring countries."

Guterres says aid agencies are enormously frustrated at the lack of response by the international community to their plea for more money. He says everybody is frustrated at the lack of movement to end this war, which has displaced nearly half of Syria's population over the last three years.

He says everyone must understand there are no winners, only losers in this war.

"This is becoming not only a humanitarian tragedy, but a terrible threat for regional stability and for global peace and security and that those countries come together and find ways to make the parties forge peace," he said. "There is no military solution. The solution is political. There is no humanitarian solution. All we can do is to alleviate the plight of people suffering. All we can do is very little compared with the suffering of the Syrian people."

Guterres says the UNHCR had planned on assisting 4.1 million refugees until the end of the year. But, he agrees this number could escalate. He says he cannot forecast what will happen. This, he says, depends on the evolution of the conflict and on the attitudes of neighboring countries as more people flee across borders