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UN: Syrians to Replace Afghans as Biggest Refugee Population

  • VOA News

FILE- Syrian refugees sit by their tent in a Syrian Refugee camp on the Lebanese border town of Arsal, in the eastern Bekaa, Dec. 15, 2013.

FILE- Syrian refugees sit by their tent in a Syrian Refugee camp on the Lebanese border town of Arsal, in the eastern Bekaa, Dec. 15, 2013.

The U.N.'s top refugee official says Syrians are about to pass Afghans as the world's biggest refugee population.

High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly Tuesday that five years ago, just before the civil war started, Syria was the world's second-largest refugee hosting country.

Now, its neighbors have provided Syrians themselves with safety, at a cost of dramatic economic and social consequences.

"It breaks my heart to see this nation that for decades welcomed refugees from other countries, ripped apart and forced into exile itself," Guterres told the 193-member U.N. assembly.

Guterres says the Syrian civil war has created ghastly human tragedies. He says even though the Syrians have shelter from the fighting, they have not escaped the trauma and psychological wounds.

The U.N. children's agency says nearly 2,000 Syrian children in Lebanese refugee camps are at risk of starving to death. It also says about 10,000 Syrian children five years old and younger suffer from acute malnutrition.

Some 9.3 million Syrians - almost half the population - need help, the United Nations said. Some 2.4 million of those people have fled the country during the three-year civil war.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the U.N. General Assembly that the world body would do everything to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution - adopted on Saturday to boost humanitarian aid access - and get help to millions in need.

"Supplies are ready to go into areas that have been hard to reach, and into the towns and cities that have been under siege," Ban said. "What we need is guaranteed safe passage for humanitarian supplies along key routes."

"It is incumbent on the Syrian government and all parties to the conflict to reach these agreements," he said.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters.
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