The number of people fleeing the civil war in Syria has increased at a much faster pace than anticipated in the UN regional response plan. - The capacity of host countries to respond to the crisis is being stretched to the limit, and the situation is becoming desperate. The humanitarian response must be scaled up to match the needs and contingency planning for future needs must be strengthened, says Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Elisabeth Rasmusson.
Every day thousands of Syrians are fleeing across the boarder to neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
-In Lebanon the UN Regional Response Plan anticipated 300,000 Syrian refugees by July 2013, but this figure has already been reached. Iraq has surpassed the 90,000 Syrian refugees estimated by the plan, more than four months earlier than expected. Since the end of last year people have been fleeing Syria in much larger numbers than foreseen by the international community, says Rasmusson, who visited Lebanon this week.
In Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, NRC has been receiving up to 5,000 refugees a day, since the beginning of 2013. It has been a hectic period and the situation is getting worse by the hour.
- More than 70,000 people have come to Zaatari during 2013. Now, more than 80,000 people are living in the camp. This creates enormous challenges, says Rasmusson.
In total, more than 855,000 Syrians have fled across the borders to neighbouring countries, according to UNHCR, and the actual figure is believed to be significantly higher. In addition, at least three million people are believed to be displaced inside Syria. At a donor meeting in Kuwait in January, donors pledged 1.5 billion dollars for relief, but so far only a small proportion of that money has been received.
-It is important that the pledges from Kuwait are honoured by donor countries. With the increasing number of refugees, there is also an increased need for tents, blankets and food, says Rasmusson.
She believes the international relief effort in the region and inside Syria must be strengthened:
-The increasing numbers of refugees reflects the worsening conditions inside Syria, where much more has to be done in order to reach people in need, says Rasmusson.