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UN: 40 percent of Syrians need humanitarian aid

The United Nations has reported that 9.3 million Syrians now need outside humanitarian assistance, a 36 percent increase since June. Neighboring nations have warned that they cannot handle the exodus of refugees.

UN human rights chief Valerie Amos told the Security Council in a closed door meeting on Monday that the humanitarian crisis in Syria is worsening rapidly, with 40 percent of the country's 23 million people now dependent on foreign assistance for their survival.

According to Amos, the number of Syrians dependent on foreign aid has risen to 9.3 million, up from 6.8 million in June. That includes 6.5 million people who are displaced inside the country, up from 4.25 million. Another 2.2 million have fled Syria altogether, with that number expected to rise to 3 million by the end of the year.

The UN human rights chief reportedly called on Security Council members to use their leverage with both the opposition and the regime to guarantee safe passage to doctors, medicine, and other humanitarian assistance.

“Amos continues to press the council for their help and influence over those parties who can ensure the protection of civilians and civilian facilities; the safe passage of medical personnel and supplies; the safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance; and can facilitate progress in expanding critical, life-saving relief operations,” said Amanda Pitt, the spokeswoman for Amos.

A polio outbreak has been reported Syria's northeast, with 22 children left paralyzed last month in Deir al-Zor near the Iraqi border. So far, the polio virus has been confirmed in 10 of the children. The Syrian government on Monday promised to ensure the delivery of vaccinations.

Humanitarian access limited

The Security Council passed a non-binding resolution on October 2, calling for unfettered humanitarian access to Syria. While Western diplomats reportedly support a binding resolution on humanitarian aid, they believe that Russia would veto such a resolution.

Meanwhile, Syria's neighbors have warned that they cannot support the continued exodus of Syrian refugees. Jordan's King Abdullah II said on Sunday that he would take measures to protect his country if international assistance wasn't forthcoming.

“Jordan currently hosts around 600,000 Syrian refugees - an issue that depletes our already limited resources and puts enormous pressure on our infrastructure,” Abdullah said in a speech to the Jordanian parliament.

“If the international community does not move quickly to help us shoulder the burdens of the Syrian crisis...Jordan is able to take measures to protect the interests of our people and country,” he said with going into details.

Civil war devastation

The UN reports over 543,000 registered refugees in Jordan, which has a population of nearly 6.5 million. In Lebanon, there are more than 800,000 refugees, according to the UN. The Lebanese government reports 1.2 million Syrian refugees. That's in a country with an overall population of just 4.1 million.

In March 2011, popular uprisings broke out against President Bashar al-Assad's government. Since then, Syria has descended into a bloody civil war that has taken on an increasingly sectarian character. According to the UN, at least 100,000 people have died in the conflict.

There have been multiple reports of chemical weapons being deployed during the civil war, with August's sarin gas attack in Eastern Damascus confirmed by UN inspectors. The UN did not investigate who was responsible for that attack.

slk/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)