Inside Syria

The human cost of Syria's war

As Ban Ki-moon predicts a rise in refugee numbers, we ask if enough is being done to help those fleeing the country.
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2012 12:16

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, is predicting a surge in the number of Syrian refugees as the violence in the country reaches what he calls "new and appalling heights of brutality".

"It is gone from bad to worse to verging on horrific. What civilians are going through is absolutely dramatic. Not only are they fleeing across borders by the thousands every day but they are also internally forced to flee and are seeking shelter in places that are not appropriate shelters."

- Melissa Fleming, from the UNHCR

He told the UN General Assembly that civilians are being massacred almost daily and that he expects the number of refugees to reach 700,000 by January.

The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, estimates that there are more than 465,000 Syrians who have fled their homeland. This number takes into account registered refugees and those awaiting registration.

  • Over 123,000 Syrians have escaped to Turkey and are known to the authorities there.
  • In Jordan, almost 138,000 Syrians have refugee status or are in the process of obtaining it.
  • More than 133,000 refugees are known to have fled to Lebanon.
  • Another 60,000 refugees have registered in Iraq.
  • Almost 10,000 have registered with the UNHCR in North Africa.

The UN agency stresses that tens of thousands of others are also believed to have been forced to leave Syria, but have not registered for help. The organisation also says that they cannot help as many they would like and blames the lack of security and the limited number of aid agencies authorised to work in the country.

"Quite frankly the situation is terrible. People in Idlib are living under the constant fear of bombardment and artillery shelling from the regime yet they have no homes, living in tent cities with minimal help from the outside world, living in terrible conditions."

- Sarab al-Jijakli, from the National Alliance for Syria

Valerie Amos, the UN's humanitarian coordinator, explained: "We are currently supplying food to about 1.5 million people. We would like to be able to increase that to 2.5 million people, but we don't have the capacity through the partners that we are able to use to increase to that number of people."

Meanwhile, Lakhdar Brahimi, the Arab League-United Nations special representative for Syria, has been briefing the UN General Assembly on the humanitarian crisis there.

"Another greater handicap is the shortage of funding. As you heard from the secretary-general, the Syria humanitarian assistance response plan is only 50 per cent funded and the regional response plan is only 38 per cent funded. Military confrontations in Syria have continued unabated. Indeed, fighting has expanded geographically to almost all parts of Syria and intensified very significantly."

So, what has been the human cost of a conflict that is now in its 20th month and appears no nearer to being resolved?

Inside Syria, with presenter James Bays, discusses this with guests: Melissa Fleming, the chief spokeswoman for the UNHCR; Ruba Khoury, the country director in Lebanon for Save the Children; and Sarab al-Jijakli, a member of the National Alliance for Syria, which is a network of Syrian activists and community groups.


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