The Syrian conflict, which has so far forced over 2.3 million people to seek refuge into neighbouring countries, is one of the world’s largest refugee exoduses in recent history, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said this week.
Faced with the prospect of a worsening situation inside Syria and continuing outflows of refugees, the UN said it has launched its biggest humanitarian appeal so far requested for a single emergency situation.
The UN last week appealed for a record US$6.5 billion (R65 billion in South African currency) for the Syria operations in 2014.
Thousands more people continue to pour across borders each day despite the harsh winter bringing freezing temperatures, fierce winds and rain, the Geneva-based organisation said, adding that it continues distributing stoves and fuel for heating, insulation for tents, blankets, mattresses and waterproof footwear.
“Emergency teams continued despite blocked roads from weather conditions, and alternative shelters are also being prepared for refugees whose tents may be affected by the snow, rain and flooding, the UN refugee agency said on its website.
As the conflict intensifies and complexifies, both President Bashar al Assad’s army and the Syria Free Army continue to tear each other apart on a regular basis, while world powers such as the US, Germany, UK, France, in concert with the League Arab, are scrambling to seek ways to end the conflict.
However, Iran – Syria’s die-hard ally whose forces are fighting side by side with Assad’s army – has been pushed aside in all negotiations involving Syria.
Nevertheless, UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie said: “With each passing day life gets harder for millions of Syrian refugees, half of them children. I hope people and governments around the world will feel compassion and a sense of responsibility for them, and provide the increase in aid that is desperately needed.
Photo: Syrian women and children brave the harsh winter to escape the endless war. Credit: A.McConnell/UNHCR