[Camps like this one, which is close to the Turkish border and supported by Islamic Relief, have sprung up all over Syria as the conflict has escalated. (Photo: Islamic Relief)]
By Elham Asaad Buaras
The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has revealed that the number of Syrians forced to seek refuge abroad since civil war began in March 2011 passed the 2 million mark on September 3. Over 100,000 have been killed since the conflict began. Of the dead, 30,000 are civilians, 45,000 are armed forces and pro-government fighters, 20,000 are rebels.
The 2 million figure represents Syrians who have registered as refugees or who are pending registration. As of the end August this comprised 110,000 in Egypt, 168,000 in Iraq, 515,000 in Jordan, 716,000 in Lebanon and 460,000 in Turkey.
Some 52% of this refugee population are children aged 17 years or below.
According to data from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) a further 4.25 million people are displaced inside Syria and a third of the country’s housing stock and thousands of schools have been destroyed during the conflict.
The 6 million mark (combined displaced and refugees) means that more Syrians are forcibly displaced than people from any other country.
“This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months,” UNHCR said.
The UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which estimates that more than 4 million children are affected by the conflict has stressed that the exposure to violence and displacement, bereavement, and a deterioration in living conditions are leaving the children with long-term emotional and physiological effects.
UNICEF Director for the Middle East, Maria Calivis, said, “Parents report that their children are experiencing frequent nightmares and exhibiting reckless and aggressive behaviours …Bedwetting is common and children have become more withdrawn and clingy. Their drawings are often violent and angry with images of bloodshed, explosions and destruction.”
Jane MacPhail, a UNICEF Child Protection Expert working with children in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, said, “Basic feelings can stop and children find themselves unable to think ahead or remember recent events.”
UNHCR Antonio Guterres said Syria had become “a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.”
More than 97% of Syria’s refugees are hosted by neighbouring countries, placing an overwhelming burden on their infrastructures. They urgently need massive international support to help deal with the crisis.
Guterres concerns were echoed by Prime Minister, David Cameron, in the G20 summit earlier this month, who warned the world risks failing a generation of Syrians if aid agencies don’t get safe access to reach people in desperate need inside the country.
Cameron announced that the UK will provide £52 million in new humanitarian funding. This brings the UK’s total funding to £400 million, double the £200 million of the UK’s largest previous response to a humanitarian crisis.
Cameron called for a strong and united push from G20 leaders for safe, unimpeded access for humanitarian workers inside Syria, including safe routes for aid convoys and the lifting of bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the Government. This would ensure aid agencies can deliver life-saving help when and where it is needed.
The new support from the UK will help reach those in desperate need as a result of the ongoing conflict across the region, including the women and children who make up the majority of refugee numbers and are amongst the most vulnerable in the conflict.
According to The Department for International Development (DFID) the UK’s new support would enable aid agencies inside Syria to provide food to nearly 23,000 people and clean water for over 130,000 people; shelter for over 44,000 displaced, and medical consultations for over 35,000 people.
In neighbouring countries the UK’s help is set to provide food for 21,000 refugees and clean water for over 14,000, shelter for 15,000 people and over 6,000 health consultations.
In a statement to The Muslim News International DFID Secretary, Justine Greening, said: “The crisis in Syria has left millions of people needing urgent food supplies and medical attention, but the Assad regime is creating bureaucratic barriers that stop help getting where it is needed. Inside Syria, medical deliveries have been blocked and aid workers attacked and killed.
“Unless access improves, we risk a lost generation of Syrian children – the very generation who will be expected to build the peaceful, democratic Syria of tomorrow.”
Many British relief agencies have led the aid to those affected in the conflict. This year alone Islamic Relief UK has helped 725,721 people in Syria, 149,455 in Jordan, 104,500 in Iraq and 54,062 in Lebanon.
A spokesman for the charity told The Muslim News, they are working, “flat out to support Syrians inside Syria and in neighbouring countries. Inside Syria our efforts are concentrated around Aleppo, Idlib, Lattakia, Homs, Hama and Deir Ezzour.
“We have provided 51 field hospitals and 86 other medical clinics with sterile supplies, medical equipment and 10 ambulances. We are also distributing food, blankets, mattresses, clothes, hygiene kits, fuel and supplies for babies such as nappies and baby milk to people driven from their homes by the conflict.”
Muslim Hands is too distributing emergency relief packs to hundreds of internally displaced families living in refugee camps.
After a delivery of five tones of flour to a local bakery, more than 5,000 internally displaced Syrians have also received bread to feed them and their families.
Since the onset of the crisis, Muslim Hands has been responding to the needs of thousands of displaced Syrians temporarily seeking refuge at the Turkish and Lebanon border.