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UN Agency: Fund Shortage In Response Plan To Help Syrian Refugees

The UN refugee agency on Friday 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 realized. "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 totaling $15.6 million," the agency's spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, said at a press conference in Geneva.

The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those witnessed 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 being assisted 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," Fleming said. "Those communities and the under-funded organizations were definitely showing signs of financial strain," she added.

Fleming said Syria's four neighboring 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, assistance programs were being implemented, according to the UNHCR spokesperson.

They include the airlifting of tents and blankets to Turkey, a cash assistance program in Jordan, outreach programs to identify the most vulnerable in Jordan and Lebanon, and rehabilitation of homes and community centers in those countries.

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 Program (WFP) is providing food to refugees in Jordan and has reached an agreement to start 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.

by RTT Staff Writer

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