Response plan to help Syrian refugees only 20 per cent funded – UN agency

Members of a Syrian family register as refugees in northern Lebanon. Photo: UNHCR/F.Juez

20 April 2012 – The UN refugee agency today said that one month after the United Nations issued an appeal for $84 million to help Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, only 20 per cent of the funds had been received.

“Of the 34 organizations that had appealed for funds under the Syria Regional Response Plan, only eight, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had received funding totalling $15.6 million,” the agency’s spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, said at a press conference in Geneva today.

The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 9,000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.

More than 61,000 Syrian refugees are receiving humanitarian aid in the region, including 21,000 in Lebanon, 13,751 in Jordan, 23,971 in Turkey and 2,376 in Iraq. The countries have maintained an open borders policy for Syrian refugees and UNHCR has been trying to support the governments.

However, according to UNHCR and its partners in the region, both the refugees and the countries hosting them are beginning to show signs of strain.

“Many of the refugees arrived with little or no financial resources and were very much reliant on the efforts of the host communities and organizations like UNHCR dedicated to supporting them,” she said. “Those communities and the under-funded organizations are definitely showing signs of financial strain.”

Ms. Fleming said Syria’s four neighbouring countries had not given an indication that they might close their borders in light of the shortage of funds, but they had indicated that financial assistance would be needed.

Despite the funding shortage, the UNHCR spokesperson said, assistance programmes were being implemented.

"Highlights of the programmes led by UNHCR include the airlifting of tents and blankets to Turkey, a cash-assistance programme in Jordan, outreach programmes to identify the most vulnerable in Jordan and Lebanon, and rehabilitation of homes and community centres in Jordan and Lebanon," Ms. Fleming said.

Food and basic household items are a key concern for many refugees who have little or no financial resources. UNHCR has provided food and household items to more than 30,000 Syrians in Jordan and Lebanon, while the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food to refugees in Jordan and will be starting operations in Lebanon.

The Syria Regional Response Plan outlines the response needs for Syrian refugees who have fled the country since March 2011. The plan is an inter-agency framework led by UNHCR and the result of a coordinated effort between seven UN agencies, 27 national and international non-governmental organization and host governments.


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