UNHCR and partners seek US$1 billion as Syrian refugee exodus grows

News Stories, 19 December 2012

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Young Syrian refugees look out from the door of their family's tent at a camp in Turkey. The number of refugees is expected to continue growing in the region.

GENEVA, December 19 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency and its partners today appealed to international donors for US$1 billion to support refugees fleeing Syria to Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt.

The new Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees sets out the funding needs of 55 humanitarian organizations in providing vital protection and assistance for civilians fleeing Syria during the first six months of 2013.

"This massive humanitarian crisis requires urgent support from governments, businesses and private individuals," said Panos Moumtzis, UNHCR's regional coordinator for Syrian refugees. "Unless these funds come quickly, we will not be able to fully respond to the life-saving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day many in a truly desperate condition."

The US$1 billion appeal is based on planning estimates that up to 1 million Syrian refugees will need help during the first half of 2013.

Also on Wednesday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria Radhouane Nouicer announced a US$519.6 million appeal for inside Syria. The funds will be used to provide aid to a 4 million people inside Syria, half of whom have been displaced from their homes. He described the three main dangers faced by Syrians as being insecurity and mass violence, the cold and lack of basic services and items. "All three are killers", he told donors.

Some 525,000 Syrians have to date either registered as refugees in the countries immediately surrounding Syria or are being assisted. This is a seven-fold increase since May, when just 70,000 Syrians had registered for help. Many more Syrians are in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, but have not yet registered.

"We are constantly shocked by the horrific stories refugees tell us," said Moumtzis. "Their lives are in turmoil. They have lost their homes and family members. By the time they reach the borders, they are exhausted, traumatized and with little or no resources to rely on."

The 2013 plan aims at redoubling efforts to protect vulnerable refugees, with a big emphasis on community outreach to those living in cities and towns. Much of this work is conducted by the 43 national and international NGOs included in the appeal.

Specific activities focusing on children, women, older people and survivors of sexual- and gender-based violence are planned for.

"Children make up roughly half of the refugees crowded into camps and host communities across five countries, and their numbers rise inexorably," said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Maria Calivis. "The evolving situation on the ground has outpaced our efforts to raise the necessary funds. Today, a further response to the desperate plight of Syrian children is once more urgently required."

Since July, Syrian refugees have fled the conflict for neighbouring countries at a rate of 2,000-3,000 a day. The 2013 plan prioritizes support for new arrivals, assistance to hosting communities and plans for construction of new camps.

As the crisis continues to deteriorate inside Syria, there is significant attention given to emergency preparedness in the plan, with regional warehouses being restocked with tents, blankets and basic household items.

The updated regional response plan for the first time includes Egypt, where more than 10,400 Syrians have been registered to date. According to government figures, tens of thousands more are in the country. Another new development in the plan is support for the UN Relief and Works Agency activities for Palestinians who have fled Syria for Lebanon.

This appeal is the fourth update of the Syria Regional Response Plan, first launched last March. The 2012 Regional Response Plan for Syrian refugees received 70 per cent of the US$487 million appealed for.

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UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to the Syrian capital Damascus on 2 October, 2009 to meet Iraqi refugees two years after her last visit. The award-winning American actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, took the opportunity to urge the international community not to forget the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees who remain in exile despite a relative improvement in the security situation in their homeland. Jolie said most Iraqi refugees cannot return to Iraq in view of the severe trauma they experienced there, the uncertainty linked to the coming Iraqi elections, the security issues and the lack of basic services. They will need continued support from the international community, she said. The Goodwill Ambassador visited the homes of two vulnerable Iraqi families in the Jaramana district of southern Damascus. She was particularly moved during a meeting with a woman from a religious minority who told Jolie how she was physically abused and her son tortured after being abducted earlier this year in Iraq and held for days. They decided to flee to Syria, which has been a generous host to refugees.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets Iraqi refugees in Syria

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

As world concern grows over the plight of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including more than 200,000 refugees, UNHCR staff are working around the clock to provide vital assistance in neighbouring countries. At the political level, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres was due on Thursday (August 30) to address a closed UN Security Council session on Syria.

Large numbers have crossed into Lebanon to escape the violence in Syria. By the end of August, more than 53,000 Syrians across Lebanon had registered or received appointments to be registered. UNHCR's operations for Syrian refugees in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley resumed on August 28 after being briefly suspended due to insecurity.

Many of the refugees are staying with host families in some of the poorest areas of Lebanon or in public buildings, including schools. This is a concern as the school year starts soon. UNHCR is urgently looking for alternative shelter. The majority of the people looking for safety in Lebanon are from Homs, Aleppo and Daraa and more than half are aged under 18. As the conflict in Syria continues, the situation of the displaced Syrians in Lebanon remains precarious.

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

By mid-September, more than 200,000 Syrian refugees had crossed the border into Turkey. UNHCR estimates that half of them are children, and many have seen their homes destroyed in the conflict before fleeing to the border and safety.

The Turkish authorities have responded by building well-organized refugee camps along southern Turkey's border with Syria. These have assisted 120,000 refugees since the crisis conflict erupted in Syria. There are currently 12 camps hosting 90,000 refugees, while four more are under construction. The government has spent approximately US$300 million to date, and it continues to manage the camps and provide food and medical services.

The UN refugee agency has provided the Turkish government with tents, blankets and kitchen sets for distribution to the refugees. UNHCR also provides advice and guidelines, while staff from the organization monitor voluntary repatriation of refugees.

Most of the refugees crossing into Turkey come from areas of northern Syria, including the city of Aleppo. Some initially stayed in schools or other public buildings, but they have since been moved into the camps, where families live in tents or container homes and all basic services are available.

Turkish Camps Provide Shelter to 90,000 Syrian Refugees

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