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May 31, 2013

UN: Syrian Refugee Count Tops 1.6 Million

by Lisa Schlein

The United Nations refugee agency said the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries now has passed 1.6 million.

Syrian refugees continue to overwhelm neighboring countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. And the numbers are growing as the conflict in Syria intensifies.
   
Earlier this week, the UNHCR together with other U.N. agencies and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent visited the small Syrian town of Hasiya to assess the needs of people who fled battle-scarred Qusair.

Hasiya is a small town of 16,000 people located 25 kilometers from Qusair. The UNHCR says the town is overwhelmed by Syrian civilians displaced from Qusair since fighting there intensified a few weeks ago.

U.N. refugee spokesman Dan McNorton said at least 700 families or 3,500 people have taken refuge in Hasiya.  He said most are women and children that are living in schools, unfinished building and tents.

Syria's refugees
 
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"UNHCR was able to witness on this visit the dire humanitarian situation of these displaced families. Due to the poor sanitation and hygiene conditions in which people were living, many, especially children, were suffering from diarrhea, were suffering from respiratory problems, high fevers, ear infections and skin diseases," explained McNorton.  

He said the UNHCR has delivered blankets and mattresses to 500 families. He said Qusair refugees need milk, diapers, medical supplies and adequate shelter. "In the course of that visit…UNHCR together with our partners have been able to identify a building that could act as a safer location for those who are currently displaced and we are looking…for ways to deliver essential items," McNorton stated. 

McNorton said the agency has registered 3,000 refugees from Qusair, although the numbers fleeing from are likely higher.