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US Doubles Aid for Global Refugees

  • Zlatica Hoke

The United States says it will double its aid to the United Nations refugee organization to help deal with the world's burgeoning number of refugees. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement Thursday as a U.N. official warned that one person every four seconds flees home somewhere in the world to escape violence and strife.

Both officials and celebrities, such as American actress Angelina Jolie, are trying to draw attention to the growing plight of refugees worldwide. There are now more than 45 million refugees and internally displaced people around the world, according to the latest U.N. report.

"Every time you blink, there is one new person, one more person, forced to flee," said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. "And this gives a very clear idea of how dramatic the displacement problem is in today's world, how dramatic the refugee problem is in the present situation of world affairs.''

Guterres spoke via satellite link from a refugee camp in Jordan that he visited with Jolie, his special envoy. The Zaatari camp houses refugees from Syria, including Abu Samer from the eastern city of Hama.

"The situation for the refugees in this camp is very bad," Abu Samer said through an interpreter. "Since the beginning no improvements have been done, there are shortages in all services, shortages in food, shortages in doctors. Regarding the situation in Syria, the Arab and western countries have done nothing to help the revolution."

More than 1.5 million Syrians have fled the country and more than four million have been internally displaced during the past two years of the civil war there. The influx of refugees is putting a strain on neighboring Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and other countries.

The U.S. has been the world's largest supporter of refugees worldwide and Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday pledged increased aid for refugees.

"Today, I announce that we are nearly doubling our contributions this year to the UNHCR. We are giving to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees a $415 million commitment that brings our 2013 total to $890 million," Kerry said. "And I'm proud to say to you that makes the United States of America the largest single contributor in the world. We provide more aid to the UNHCR than any other country and more than the next six countries combined. Americans should be proud of that.''

In a statement marking World Refugee Day Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the number of refugees worldwide is higher than ever in history, and that the figures give only a glimpse of this enormous human tragedy.
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