UNHCR renews call for urgent funding to help Syrian refugees

News Stories, 15 March 2013

© UNHCR/M.Fleming
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres meets with Syrian refugees living near Ketermaya, southern Lebanon.

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 15 (UNHCR) UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today reiterated his call for governments to create special funds to support Syrian refugees and the countries that host them.

Speaking to journalists in Beirut on the second anniversary of the start of the Syria conflict, he warned that urgently needed support could be denied to refugees and the region could become unstable unless fresh funds were rapidly made available.

Guterres said there was a widening gap between the needs and the resources available. "There is no way a gap of this magnitude can be filled with current humanitarian budgets," he stressed, while adding that the growing tragedy in Syria and the region was "a threat to international peace and security."

If the conflict continued, he warned, "there will be an explosion in the Middle East."

The High Commissioner said there was currently a gap of US$700 million in what humanitarian organizations such as UNHCR needed to meet the basic needs of more than 1.1 million refugees and what they had received. There is a 70 per cent shortfall. He expressed his hope that funds pledged at conference last month in Kuwait would materialize soon and be devoted to the UN humanitarian response.

Guterres also called on the international community to do more to ease the strain on host governments. Lebanon, which has taken in more than 350,000 refugees, has witnessed a 10 per cent increase in its population over the past year. "This conflict represents an existential threat to Lebanon," he said.

© UNHCR/E.Dorfman
Guterres listens to Syrian refugees as local dignitaries and others also look on. He met a group of 15 families who were offered a place to stay by a Lebanese landowner.

In meetings with refugees in Ketermaya, south of Beirut, and in Tripoli, Guterres heard about the challenges in finding housing and the high rents they face. The lack of funding is holding up innovative projects aimed at identifying new forms of shelter and renovating existing accommodation.

Refugee families told the High Commissioner their children have missed out on school for up two years. Partners like UNICEF have organized remedial classes in some parts of Lebanon, but would like to get more children to attend schools full-time.

Health experts, meanwhile, told Guterres about the risk of diarrhoea, hepatitis A and scabies if urgently needed water and sanitation projects are not supported. Currently, UNHCR and partners are covering 85 per cent of the costs of basic health care of refugees attending health clinics.

"Lebanon needs massive support," he said. "It cannot do it alone."

The Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees, with a budget of US$1 billion, details the coordinated response of 55 NGOs and UN agencies, led by UNHCR. There are currently 1.126 million Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, while new refugees arrive at a rate of about 8,000 a day.

Guterres is on the last leg of a visit to the region. He visited Turkey and Jordan earlier in the week.




UNHCR country pages

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

The UN refugee agency has named the British coordinator of a UN-run mine clearance programme in southern Lebanon and his civilian staff, including almost 1,000 Lebanese mine clearers, as the winners of the 2008 Nansen Refugee Award.

Christopher Clark, a former officer with the British armed forces, became manager of the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre-South Lebanon (UNMACC-SL) n 2003. His teams have detected and destroyed tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and tens of thousands of mines. This includes almost 145,000 submunitions (bomblets from cluster-bombs) found in southern Lebanon since the five-week war of mid-2006.

Their work helped enable the return home of almost 1 million Lebanese uprooted by the conflict. But there has been a cost – 13 mine clearers have been killed, while a further 38 have suffered cluster-bomb injuries since 2006. Southern Lebanon is once more thriving with life and industry, while the process of reconstruction continues apace thanks, in large part, to the work of the 2008 Nansen Award winners.

2008 Nansen Refugee Award

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

UNHCR started distributing emergency relief aid in devastated southern Lebanese villages in the second half of August. Items such as tents, plastic sheeting and blankets are being distributed to the most vulnerable. UNHCR supplies are being taken from stockpiles in Beirut, Sidon and Tyre and continue to arrive in Lebanon by air, sea and road.

Although 90 percent of the displaced returned within days of the August 14 ceasefire, many Lebanese have been unable to move back into their homes and have been staying with family or in shelters, while a few thousand have remained in Syria.

Since the crisis began in mid-July, UNHCR has moved 1,553 tons of supplies into Syria and Lebanon for the victims of the fighting. That has included nearly 15,000 tents, 154,510 blankets, 53,633 mattresses and 13,474 kitchen sets. The refugee agency has imported five trucks and 15 more are en route.

Posted on 29 August 2006

Lebanese Returnees Receive Aid

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

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A transit centre at Vinojug, on FYR Macedonia's border with Greece is where the refugees and migrants pass through on their journey further into Europe. Here UNHCR and partner organisations provide food, water, medical care, psycho-social support and information for refugees who take the train towards the border with Serbia. UNHCR also provides information on how to access the asylum system in the country. In recent weeks, an average of 6,300 refugees pass through the camp every day, yesterday that number grew to 10,000, a record.
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On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.