UN calls for largest aid amount yet in Syrian crisis


A Syrian man feeds his child in the Arsal refugee camp in Bekaa valley in eastern Lebanon on Sunday. Syrian refugees weathered a winter storm that brought snow, rain and freezing temperatures to the country. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

The United Nations and other aid organizations are calling on international donors to pony up $6.5 billion to help Syrians inside and outside the country — their largest appeal yet in Syria’s nearly three-year-old civil war.
The last appeal was for $4.4 billion in June, only 60 percent of which was funded. The U.N. regional response plan released Monday anticipates the number of Syrian refugees will grow from 2.3 million this year to 4.1 million by the end of 2014. “This would make Syrians the largest refugee population in the world,” the report says.

Another 6.5 million people have been displaced within Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, a number that is expected to increase to 9.3 million, according to the United Nations.

Syrians line up to be registered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to receive aid in the Arsal refugee camp in Lebanon. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

About half of the Syrian refugees are children. Aid groups are concerned that a generation of refugee children will go going without a formal education and that babies are born in the camps without birth certificates, which will harm them later in life when they try to enroll in school or get health care or other services.

Host countries, such as Jordan and Lebanon, are straining from the influx of refugees. Lebanon, which already has about 500,000 Palestinian refugees, reportedly is reluctant to set up formal housing for the Syrians in case it will encourage them to stay. Lebanon houses the most Syrian refugees — 905,000 — compared to other neighboring countries Jordan (575,000), Turkey (562,000), Iraq (216,000) and Egypt (145,000). By the end of 2014, the number of refugees in Lebanon is expected to grow to 1.65 million, the United Nations predicts.

More than 100 Syrian refugees live in a snow-covered makeshift camp in Amman, Jordan. Photo by Shadi Alnsoor/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Among the Syrians who want to return home are those who have sought refuge in Jordan from Daraa, the southwestern Syrian city where the uprising began, said Andrew Harper, the U.N. refugee agency’s Jordan representative, at a recent briefing for reporters. But “as society (in Syria) continues to get destroyed, the potential of people to go back gets more and more difficult.”

A conference in Geneva aimed at finding a political solution to the Syrian crisis is planned for Jan. 22.

Syria’s turmoil is different than other typical conflicts because there are a number of different anti-government groups, including extremist elements, which makes it difficult to negotiate an agreement, said Ewen Macleod, UNHCR’s senior adviser on Lebanon. Nonetheless, “it’s extremely important that a dialogue takes place. It may be this is a long learning process.”

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