GENEVA - U.N. and private aid agencies are appealing for $4.4 billion to support more than five million destitute Syrian refugees and the impoverished communities hosting them in five neighboring countries.
The U.N. refugee agency reports that, after more than six years of war in Syria, more than half a million people have been killed, seven million are displaced within Syria, and more than five million are living as refugees in neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
Amin Awad, UNHCR director for the Middle East and North Africa bureau and regional refugee coordinator for Syria and Iraq, says the agency has been consistently underfunded throughout the years. The financial shortfall means cuts have been made in education, health, food, shelter and protection, among other areas.
"We are not able to provide stoves," Awad said. "We are not able to deliver kerosene. We are not able to deliver enough thermal blankets. We are not able to winterize tents. We are not able to drain water and snow from camps. We are not able to do engineering work to insulate some of the buildings. People are sitting in cold, open buildings."
The situation for 1.7 million Syrian refugee children is particularly worrying, as more than 40 percent are out of school and are destined to become part of a lost generation, Awad said.
In addition, he says, the situation for host countries is becoming more burdensome. It is as vital for international donors to support these beleaguered communities as it is to assist the refugees who live among them, according to the agency.