News / Middle East

UN Seeks More Money to Help Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugees seek help in LebanonSyrian refugees seek help in Lebanon
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Syrian refugees seek help in Lebanon
Syrian refugees seek help in Lebanon
Lisa Schlein
GENEVA -- U.N. humanitarian agencies are appealing for $193 million to help an anticipated 185,000 Syrian refugees until the end of the year.  The agencies say the number of people fleeing to neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq is increasing daily.  

The agencies say the crisis in Syria is getting worse and this is pushing more and more people to seek refuge in neighboring countries.  As a consequence, they say the $84 million appeal they launched in March isn’t enough to meet the growing needs.  More money is urgently needed.

The U.N. refugee agency reports a significant increase in the number of Syrian refugees - from 40,000 three months ago to 96,000 now.

It says humanitarian agencies have been registering an average of more than 500 Syrian refugees a day.  But it says other refugees are not registered, so it is difficult to know the true extent of the exodus.

UNHCR’s Regional Coordinator for Syrian Refugees, Panos Moumtzis, says most of the refugees flee at night and avoid official crossing points.  He says those who are wounded are taken immediately to health centers.

He says the registration of Syrian refugees is a voluntary, but rigorous process.

“Ensuring the civilian character of refugee camps or refugee settings is essential for us," said Panos. "Basically, the people we are assisting are 100 percent civilians.  We do not assist, we do not intervene in the refugee camps helping military or any soldiers.  It is purely civilian… For us, ensuring the civilian character of the humanitarian response is really crucial.”   

Moumtzis says most of the refugees, 65 percent, flee from the Homs area into Jordan and Lebanon.  Most of the other refugees are from Daraa and Idlib.  He says 75 percent of the refugees are women and children.  And, half of the total refugee population is children.

The deputy director of emergency programs at the U.N. Children’s Fund, Dermot Carty, tells VOA the women and children are very stressed when they arrive in one of the countries of shelter.  He says they are always exhausted and worrying about their future.

“And that is why we have been stressing the importance of things like the creation of a protective environment and education," said Carty. "We have experience from this and other places where getting children back into as normal a life as possible is a reinvigorating factor, where they can go to school, they can feel it is a safe and secure environment.  Where necessary there can be referrals for those children who have witnessed or suffer trauma themselves.”   

The UNHCR says it has received only about 26 percent of the $84 million it sought in its March appeal. The agency says it is crucial that donors give generously to fund the rising needs of the growing and vulnerable refugee population.

It says money from the latest appeal will be used for shelter, registration, protection, food, water, sanitation, health and education for Syrian refugees in camps.  The funds also will assist those who remain in urban areas and the people who are hosting refugees.

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