Syrian refugees in front of makeshift tents at Al Faydah refugee camps, near Zahleh in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 12 March 2020 | Photo: EPA/NABIL MOUNZER
Syrian refugees in front of makeshift tents at Al Faydah refugee camps, near Zahleh in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, 12 March 2020 | Photo: EPA/NABIL MOUNZER

After ten years of conflict, half of the Syrian population has been forced to flee home, the UN refugee agency UNHCR has highlighted. 70% are living in poverty.

In a statement issued to mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said that the crisis has produced more than 5.5 million refugees in the region while hundreds of thousands more are scattered across 130 countries.

70% of refugees are living in a condition of total poverty, without access to food, water and basic services. Half of Syrians were forced to flee their homes, the UN agency said on March 13.

"Ten years of conflict have inflicted unimaginable suffering and pain," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Flippo Grandi said in the statement.

"The world has failed Syrians. As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, leading a response to one of the largest refugee crises in modern times, I observe this anniversary with a heavy heart. For global leaders, it's a dark and damning reminder that this decade of death, destruction and displacement happened on their watch."

The numbers of the Syrian conflict

According to the UN agency, the most vulnerable individuals are children and teens: 45% of refugees are under 18, 1.6 million of refugee children are under 10, including one million living in exile.

An entire generation has been scarred and is often denied an education, along with suffering from malnutrition and poor living conditions, UNHCR said.

In Syria, the humanitarian situation is dire: 6.7 million Syrians have been internally displaced, including half who have been living far from home for over five years; over 13 million people need humanitarian assistance and protection; 12.4 million people suffer from lack of food, or 60% of the entire population; 5.9 million people are experiencing a housing emergency.

The situation of healthcare is also dramatic: only 58% of hospitals and 53% of medical centers providing basic services are fully functioning.

Nearly nine in 10 Syrians are living below the poverty threshold.

'We must double collective efforts'

"A combination of waning aid with COVID-19 induced economic downturn has driven Syrian refugees to unseen levels of desperation," Grandi said.

"At the same time, we have been witnesses of extraordinary generosity that has saved millions of Syrian lives. Syria's neighbors have been sheltering millions of refugees, shouldering huge responsibility. Their economic, scarce resources, infrastructures and societies are under tremendous pressure."

Beyond the region, "a groundswell of solidarity with Syrian refugees has driven many governments to shift policies and offer genuine gestures to help refugees and refugee-hosting countries through resettlement, family reunifications, humanitarian visas, scholarships and other safe and legal pathways for Syrian refugees," Grandi went on to say.

"The gravity of this crisis must not weaken our solidarity for Syrians. On the contrary, we must redouble our collective effort to support both refugees and the communities hosting them. We owe Syrian refugees and the region no less," he concluded.


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