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Number of Syrian refugees set to pass 2 million within weeks

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Lauren Fisher

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Amman, JORDAN (June 19, 2013) — The number of Syrian refugees will pass the two million mark within the next nine weeks*, a coalition of 18 aid agencies working in six countries directly affected by the Syrian crisis warned today.

Marking the UN’s World Refugee Day, the coalition said it was deeply concerned about the alarming escalation of refugee numbers, which is being fueled by the relentless fighting in Syria.

Hugh Fenton, chair of the Syrian INGO Regional Forum, said: “The plight of Syrian refugees is on a staggering scale — and as the violence and bloodshed continue in Syria, the number of people fleeing the country rises uncontrollably.”

“When they arrive in the host countries, refugees are bewildered and exhausted – not knowing what their future holds. A generation of Syrian children has witnessed brutal violence, women and girls have been victims of rape and abuses, and they will all continue to suffer while in exile.”

“We must ensure that all those affected — registered or unregistered refugees, within and outside camps — receive the urgent assistance they need, and their basic needs for life are met.”

The official number of Syrian refugees is rapidly growing above 1.6 million — with Lebanon and Jordan hosting the majority. But the official figures do not reflect the full picture and many thousands more are unregistered, lacking regular access to essential aid.

Over 77 percent of the total refugee population are living in urban areas, outside official camps, with little or no opportunities to earn a living. While host country governments, communities and aid agencies are doing all they can to help, Syrian refugees need urgent access to basic services, including shelter, health, education, water and sanitation.

The aid agencies warn that too many are trapped in a vicious cycle, finding it increasingly difficult to cope. High rental accommodation costs drive many into debt or into inadequate shelter, exposing them and their families to health risks and further extreme stress.

Healthcare facilities in overcrowded host communities are stretched to the limit. In Jordan, for example, the number of hospital visits by refugees grew from 300 per month in January 2012 to 10,000 visits this past March. In Lebanon, refugees struggle to pay for their 25 percent share of hospitalization.

The aid agencies have called in vain for a sustained response to the refugee crisis — underlining the critical need for a long-term vision by the international community of how best to meet the needs of refugees and hosting communities.

“While the two million number may sound shocking, it’s likely even higher. It doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are unable or unwilling to register, because they avoid registering out of fear or because the registration system can’t keep pace with the growing demand,” said Chris Palusky, World Vision’s Senior Director of Emergency Response. “We’ve heard stories from our staff, of refugees having to wait for months to register. That’s months without food or healthcare assistance many so desperately need. And even bigger issue for many is the simple question of where they can live. Rent prices are unaffordable for refugees and host-communities and quickly consume nearly all of the money they manage to earn or bring with them.”

The current UN appeals (calling for over $4 billion) are less than a third funded and the aid agencies are urging donor countries to dig deep and find the money that is desperately needed to adequately fund the humanitarian response.

“Of course a response on this scale is costly. But the lives of so many Syrians have been devastated. The international community cannot look the other way. Committed funds, not just pledges, are needed urgently,” Fenton said. “Refugees could be staying in host countries for months or years, it is critical that they are able to live with dignity and have livelihood options that help them to cover basic costs.”

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Editor’s notes:

*Calculation is based on the average number of UNHCR’s registrations completed per week (https://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php).

Syria INGO Regional Forum has members responding to the Syrian crisis in Syria and neighboring countries. These include: ACTED, Action Aid, CARE, DRC, Handicap International, HelpAge International, Intersos, IRC, IRD, Medair, Medecins du Monde, Oxfam, PU-AMI, Relief International, Secours Islamique France, Solidarités Internationale, War Child, World Vision International.

On-the-ground photos and interviews are available. For more information contact Lauren Fisher at +1.206.310.5476.

About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.WorldVision.org/press or follow us on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews.