GENEVA — The United Nations refugee agency says more than two million Syrians have fled their war-torn country -- more than half are children, with most under age 11. The agency says it is planning for the possibility of 3.5 million refugees by the end of the year.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, says 5,000 to 6,000 women, children and men are fleeing across borders every day.
"If one looks at the recent escalation of the conflict, what is appalling is that the first million fled Syria during two years," he said. "The second million fled Syria in six months. We have now about one-third of the Syrian population that is displaced either Inside or outside the country. And, almost half of the Syrian population that is in need of assistance again either outside or inside the country."
Besides the two million Syrian refugees, the UNHCR estimates several hundred thousand have not registered as refugees and are not counted in the official statistics. In addition, the United Nations reports more than four million people are displaced inside Syria.
The UNHCR says more than 97 percent of Syria’s refugees are in neighboring countries - Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Lebanon has more than 720,000 refugees, while Jordan and Turkey have near a half million apiece.
Iraq’s Kurdistan has nearly 172,000 Syrian refugees, 47,000 of whom arrived in the last two weeks of August.
Guterres says these countries are in need of massive international support.
"To preserve the stability of those countries in this extremely difficult situation is absolutely essential," he said. "The war is already spilling over into Lebanon and into Iraq and the risks of an explosion in the Middle East are growing by the day."
The UNHCR is meeting with government ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey on Wednesday in a bid to drum up international support. The agency says it has received less than half of the $1.16 billion dollars it needs to assist refugees until the end of the year.