GENEVA - The U.N. refugee agency warns a lack of funding is threatening life-saving assistance for millions of Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them. In advance of a ministerial pledging conference in Brussels, the UNHCR is appealing to the international community to support the United Nations' multi-billion-dollar appeal.
Syria’s war, which has entered its seventh year, has reached another tragic milestone. A few days ago, the UNHCR reported the number of Syrians who have fled to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey now tops 5 million.
These refugees and many others who have made the perilous journey to Europe and beyond are in desperate need of aid; but, the UNHCR warns all face drastic cuts in life-saving assistance because there is no money to support them.
Agency spokesman Babar Baloch says the United Nations has received just 9 percent of the $4.6 billion it needs to help refugees and host communities in the five neighboring countries as well as more than 13 million Syrians living inside Syria. Of this appeal, he says the UNHCR requires $1.4 billion for operations this year.
“Things are getting quite desperate. If the funding support is not there, children may not be going to the schools. Services, basic services like shelter, water, sanitation, health may also suffer,” he says.
Baloch says U.N. agencies are pinning their hopes on the ministerial conference that opens in Brussels Wednesday. He tells VOA he hopes the world will realize that much is at stake for the Syrian refugees and will respond to their needs.
“Let us not forget that the host communities have been stepping forward shouldering this burden. We cannot leave the region alone to take care of these refugees. Turkey has around 3 million, one million in a small country like Lebanon as well. A majority of these refugees are women and children,” Baloch says.
U.N. agencies say all areas of assistance will be curtailed this year without adequate funding. They warn food and cash assistance to the refugees will be reduced or cut by mid-year, threatening the stability and security of the region.