Over 5 000 people are fleeing Syria into neighbouring countries every day, as the conflict worsens and the flood of refugees overwhelms aid effort and places a massive burden on host communities, humanitarian agency Oxfam said yesterday.
Lebanon and Jordan host the largest numbers, with the latter having recorded its highest figure in February with over 50 000 new arrivals, Oxfam said.
Refugee numbers have doubled in Egypt over the last three months, risen by almost one-fifth in Turkey since the start of the year; and Iraq already hosts refugee numbers much larger than it had forecast for the end of June, the UK-based aid agency said.
More than 70 000 people, including women, children and senior citizens, have been killed in the two-year-old conflict, the UN says, predicting that one million-plus refugees will have fled Syria by June.
But the UN death toll from the conflict is hotly disputed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which estimates that the war has killed more than 200 000 people.
The conflict has left aid agencies overstretched and struggling to cope with a massive surge in refugee numbers, Oxfam Syria crisis response manager Francis Lacasse said, adding that only 20% out of the 1.5 billion USD promised for the Syria humanitarian response has been received.
Inside Syria, where more than two million more have been displaced from their homes, the costs of basic commodities have increased, health facilities have been damaged or destroyed and contaminated water supplies have resulted in an increase in waterborne diseases such as Hepatitis A and typhoid.
Meanwhile, Human Rights watch has strongly condemned the Syrian government for launching ballistic missiles this week in largely populated areas of the city of Aleppo, an attack that has reportedly killed more than 141 people, including 71 children.
“The extent of the damage from a single strike, the lack of aircraft in the area at the time, and reports of ballistic missiles being launched from a military base near Damascus overwhelmingly suggest that government forces struck these areas with ballistic missiles,” HRW said yesterday.
President Bashar al-Assad, who has ruled Syria with an iron-fist since 2001, refuses to step down, as requested by the rebel coalition which set that ‘not-negotiable’ condition before it agrees to any kind of talks with the embattled government.
“Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. We stand united with the Syrian people on this, and we will continue to offer support to the Syrian opposition even as other countries choose to make it possible for Assad to continue his violent campaign against his own people,” White House press secretary Jay Carney, told reporters this week.
“There is no quick fix to the conflict,” Lacasse said. “Even if there was an immediate halt to the violence today, there will be massive humanitarian needs that will need to be addressed for months and years to come.”
Oxfam, which plans to settle at 120 000 people in Lebanon and Jordan, said its 18 million USD’s emergency appeal for the Syria crisis is less than 5% funded.
*Photo courtesy of Reuters