GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency said the number of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria has topped 4 million, making Syria the world’s biggest refugee crisis in a generation.
With no solution to the conflict in sight, the UNHCR said it expects the number of refugees to exceed 4.25 million by the end of the year.
The U.N. refugee agency said this milestone comes barely 10 months after the 3 million refugee mark was reached.
In June, more than 24,000 Syrians fled to Turkey, which already is the world’s largest refugee-hosting country.
Turkey is home to about 45 percent of the 4 million Syrian refugees in the region. Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt host most of the rest.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told VOA conditions for the refugees in the host countries are worsening, and that more of them are sinking into poverty and desperation.
“We are seeing a growing trend in what we call negative coping – that is, child labor, begging, child marriages and worse," Edwards said.
"If you look at the various countries these populations are in, 86 percent of the refugees in Jordan living outside camps are below the poverty line; 55 percent in Lebanon are living in sub-standard shelter. There is a huge and growing funding crunch,” he added.
Edwards said that only one-quarter of the $5.5 billion needed in international humanitarian and development aid this year has been received.
He said the lack of money is putting huge pressure on the refugees and local communities hosting them.
Edwards said aid agencies will be forced to make tough new cuts in refugee programs because the money to support them is not available.
“Programs, which are incredibly important in the long run, such as education of children, such as health, such as other things – these go by the way and these have long-term consequences. When you have millions of children unable to go to school, unable to get the proper help they need … the risk is you run into a lost generation of people,” he said.
Edwards said many refugees see no prospect of returning home in the near future and this is driving larger numbers toward Europe and farther afield. Desperation is prompting many to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea.