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UNHCR: Syria, Jordan Shortchanged on Refugee Aid


The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says donor countries are not doing enough to help Syria and Jordan deal with an estimated two million Iraqi refugees they are hosting. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

The U.N. refugee agency says Iraqis are continuing to flee in large numbers. The agency says Syria alone receives about 2,000 Iraqis a day. UNHCR Spokesman, Ron Redmond says both Syria and Jordan are struggling to cope.

He says it is unconscionable that generous host countries be left on their own to deal with the financial burden of such a crisis.

Redmond says host countries in the Middle East need hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with the refugees. But he says, donor nations have given about $70 million so far and pledged another $10 million in aid.

As an example of the difficulties experienced by these countries, Redmond notes only 32,000 of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugee children in Syria are actually in school. He says there simply is not enough space to take them all in.

"A whole generation of Iraqi children is in danger of missing out on an education," he said. "We are working with UNICEF on programs to have at least 150,000 Iraqi children in school in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon by the end of 2007. The health infrastructure is also under severe strain and thousands of Iraqis are suffering because they cannot get proper help. Every week, we are seeing sick and maimed Iraqis-including many burn and trauma victims-arriving in Syria in search of medical help."

In April, the UNHCR hosted a major conference in Geneva to raise awareness about the plight of Iraqi refugees and their host countries. At that time, aid agencies and governments pledged to help Syria and Jordan deal with the refugees. Redmond says these countries have not kept their promises.

Since the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, about two million Iraqis have become displaced within their own country. More than two million others have become refugees.