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Syrian Humanitarian Crisis Stretching UN's Response Capacity

Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), pauses during a news conference after the seventh Syrian Humanitarian Forum at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Feb. 19, 2013.
The chief United Nations humanitarian official says the Syrian fighting is stretching the U.N.’s ability to respond.

Valerie Amos, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, briefed the U.N. Security Council on the situation in Syria. She then emerged from the closed-door meeting to tell reporters that the Syrian crisis is completely stretching the U.N.’s capacity.

“Quite frankly, the pace at which we’re able to do this is much slower than the pace at which the crisis is evolving. I am also extremely concerned by the rising costs of this. We asked for $1.5 billion for our response for the next six months," said Amos. "Those figures are already out of date, given the projections we had at the end of last year and where we are now."

Amos said the first two months of this year have been what she called a real game-changer, and she said the scale of the humanitarian crisis is outpacing whatever is done to respond.

Another humanitarian official, Udo Janz from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said “We might be reaching a moment of reckoning in the region,” because of the impact of Syrian refugees on neighboring countries.
Janz said since early January, every week about 40,000 Syrians have fled their country.

“We could be talking now about 400,000 refugees in both Lebanon and in Jordan. We are approaching 300,000 in Turkey and over 100,000 have already made their way to Iraq, and there are thousands of others who have made their way further beyond, into Europe and North Africa,” stated Janz.

Janz added that more than 30,000 Palestinians, once hosted by Syria, have made their way into Lebanon. We heard all the pledges. We now need to see that those pledges are honored," he noted. "The High Commissioner is operating on a shoestring ((limited budget)) compared to the needs that are in the region.”

At a conference in Kuwait on January 30, the U.N. reached its goal of $1.5 billion in aid pledges. However, U.N. humanitarian chief Amos said the U.N. has received only $200 million of the pledged money.