UN appeals for $1.5 bln aid for Syrian refugees

UN appeals for $1.5 bln aid for Syrian refugees

GENEVA / RAMALLAH - Agence France-Presse
UN appeals for $1.5 bln aid for Syrian refugees

A man runs between debris after a mortar shell hit a street killing several people in Aleppo. For all of 2012, the UN had requested just $835 million to help Syrians inside and outside the country. AP photo

The United Nations appealed yesterday for $1.5 billion to help Syrians fleeing the fighting, warning that the number of refugees in neighboring countries could double to a million by June.

“The conflict has become increasingly brutal and indiscriminate and has exacted a heavy toll,” the U.N.’s humanitarian affairs agency said in a statement.

“The violence in Syria is raging across the country,” Radhouane Nouicer, regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, told reporters in Geneva. “There are really no more safe areas where people can flee,” he added. “The magnitude of this humanitarian crisis is undisputable.” The appeal was to fund activities over the next six months, said Nouicer. They actually needed far more than the $1.5 billion, “but we are being realistic,” he added.

2 million flee

For all of 2012, the U.N. had requested just $835 million to help Syrians inside and outside the country, although it received only about $525 million. “The number of people in need of assistance inside Syria has quadrupled from 1 million in March 2012 to 4 million in December,” U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. An estimated 2 million people have now fled their homes and are still inside the country: they are in desperate need of food, shelter, water and emergency medical services, it added.

But most of the requested funds for the first half of 2013 were needed to help the growing numbers who had fled the country. The U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, was asking for $1 billion through the end of June. By then, the number of refugees registered in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt was expected to have reached around 1 million, nearly double the 523,631 registered as of Dec. 17, the UNHCR said. The current number is already seven times higher than in March, when 70,000 Syrians registered for help abroad.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday urged the international community to help Palestinian refugees fleeing fighting in camps in Syria to enter the West Bank and Gaza. “Mahmoud Abbas requested [Dec. 19] that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the international community enable our people in Syria to enter Palestinian territory,” a statement carried by official WAFA news agency said. He said help was needed “because of the exposure of Palestinian camps to the bloody conflict in Syria.” Abbas’ call came after tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the Yarmuk district of south Damascus, home to one of 12 camps in Syria which host Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Yarmuk was bombed for the first time on Dec. 16 killing at least eight civilians.