MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – As the crisis in Syria reaches its second year, refugees in the ongoing conflict has reached the 1 million mark, the United Nations’ refugee agency said Wednesday, March 6.
“With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiralling towards full-scale disaster,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
This number includes Syrians registered as refugees, those awaiting registration, or those who are being assisted by the agency. UNHCR noted that since the start of the yea, refugee numbers increased to more than 400,000.
Data came from the agency’s offices in the Middle East, they said.
“We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched. This tragedy has to be stopped,” Guterres said.
The refugees are mainly in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt, and increasingly in North Africa and Europe, the agency said.
Children, mostly under the age of 11, comprise almost half of the refugee population.
Initial estimates put the numbers at 1.1 million by June this year, but with this development, the UNHCR said they will adjust the Regional Response Plan for Syrian Refugees.
The increasing refugee population is straining the resources of host countries and humanitarian agencies, and the UN said they should also be supported by the international committee.
“At a minimum, humanitarian actors should receive the funds needed to save lives and ease suffering,” Guterres added.
Only a year ago, the UN agency had only registered 33,000 refugees.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces fiercely cracked down on what were initially unarmed protests inspired by the Arab Spring but the crisis has since escalated into a deadly civil war.
Over 70,000 people have been killed since March 2011, according to the United Nations.
Most of the anti-Assad rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the ruling clan and many of its most fervent supporters are from the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
On Tuesday, March 5, the UN and humanitarian agencies announced they will seek US$10.4 billion in aid to assist people in Syria and in 23 other countries facing humanitarian crises.
The UNHCR chief is due to travel to the region later this week to visit the agency’s operations in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. – With reports from the Agence France-Presse / Rappler.com