SYRIA – The United Nations refugee agency and senior Government ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey – countries which together host more than 1.7 million Syrian refugees – called today on the international community to “overcome differences” to stop the fighting in Syria, as the made an urgent appeal for expanded assistance to the region.
“We are facing the dramatic escalation of the Syrian conflict, namely with the use of chemical weapons,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said in an agreed statement with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs Wael Abu Faour and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
“We strongly appeal to the international community to overcome existing differences and come together to stop the fighting. All actions that are creating refugee flows need to cease,” the joint statement continued.
A political solution to end this cycle of horror is “urgently needed,” Mr. Guterres and the ministers said: “There is no humanitarian solution to the Syrian crisis; rather there needs to be a political solution that ends the humanitarian crisis.”
The joint statement follows a half-day meeting chaired by Mr. Guterres with representatives of the four countries that host the majority of the 2 million refugees who have fled Syria since March 2011. And additional 4.25 million people are displaced within Syria, according to UN figures.
A ministerial-level meeting is scheduled to be held on 30 September as part of the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) annual Executive Committee gathering to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis.
The discussions – involving international financial institutions as well as ministerial delegations from Members States, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations – will seek to build consensus for large-scale commitments to combine humanitarian and emergency aid with support for development in the region.
“Our central message is these countries need and deserve massive support from the international community, and that support is not yet there and it is essential to have a shift in the way the international community is handling that support,” Mr. Guterres told journalists at the joint press conference in Geneva.
UNHCR and its partners in June appealed to donors for $4.4 billion for Syria relief operations this year, including $3 billion to meet humanitarian and host community needs in the immediate surrounding region. About 40 per cent of this component has been funded.
As of the end August, the number of Syrians registered as refugees or pending registration was 200,000 in Iraq, 520,000 in Jordan, some 720,000 in Lebanon and 464,000 in Turkey.
At the current trend, an average of almost 5,000 Syrians flee into these countries every day, the UN reported, half of them children.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today said it was continuing its support Syria, the four countries, as well as neighbouring Egypt.
“We are working on the ground, round the clock with a wide network of dedicated partners to reach Syrian children across the region,” said Maria Calivis, UNICEF’s Regional Director of the Middle East and North Africa.
To meet increasing humanitarian needs, work is on-going to pre-position essential supplies such as bottled water, water tanks and purification tablets and household materials. The UN agency is also supporting children going back to school with bags, materials and classroom furniture.