Stream of refugees strains Syria′s neighbors | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 28.03.2013
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Stream of refugees strains Syria's neighbors

As war rages in their country, thousands of Syrians seek shelter in neighboring nations, where they are helped by international organizations. But the rising number of refugees is stretching resources thin.

They are fleeing shootings, bombings and torture. Every day more than 8,000 Syrians leave their homes in search of refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or Egypt. According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, more than 1.2 million Syrians have registered as refugees or await processing in neighboring countries and North Africa, since the revolt began two years ago.

"It is extremely difficult to cope with such crowds of people," aid worker Vera Voss told DW. Voss, who heads the humanitarian organization Johanniter Unfallhilfe in Jordan and Lebanon, said helpers seek to tend to people's basic needs first. "At the moment people are in need of classic emergency aid," she said.

The aid organization World Vision is also operating in Lebanon. It distributes blankets, heaters, food vouchers and fuel. Employees provide hygiene training courses and try to ensure badly needed drinking water and medical supplies.

But the refugees, half of whom are children, need more than the necessitates to survive. In Lebanon's Bekaa region, World Vision has built classrooms and child protection facilities designed to assist children traumatized by war.

Invisible refugees

But the aid workers are being stretched to their limits. The increasing number of displaced people means a higher number of settlements to tend to. Around 80 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan are not accommodated in refugee camps. The same is true for Turkey and Iraq where only a portion of refugees are living in large camps. Most of the other refugees have been forced to settle in towns and cities.

Syrian refugees take a rest after they crossed into Jordanian territory with their families from Syria into Jordan near Mafraq February 18, 2013. According to the Jordanian Armed Forces sources, around 89,000 Syrian refugees fleeing from the violence in their country have crossed the Jordanian border since the beginning of 2013.

Hundreds of Syrian refugees cross daily into Jordan

There are no official camps for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, even though around 375,000 of them have already been registered by Lebanese officials - more than in any other neighboring country. Those who are not able find refuge with friends or family or who cannot afford to pay rent, are forced to live in makeshift shelters or slums, often without any water, electricity or heat.

"We call them the 'invisible refugees,' because you can't recognize them as clearly as in a refugee camp," World Vision's Marc-André Hensel told DW.

Since the aid groups' funding is limited, Hensel said his work in Lebanon involves "trying to seek out those households most in need."

"You simply need more resources to keep up with the masses of people," he added.

Too little for too many

319171 Lebanon. 12/15/2012 Syrian refugees in the town of Bar Elias, Bekaa Valley. Valeriy Melnikov/RIA Novosti pixel Schlagworte Bekaa-Ebene , Syrische , .Konflikte , .Syrien , .Flüchtlinge , Social Issues , Bevölkerung , Gesellschaft

According to the United Nations, half of the Syrian refugees are children

In January more than 40 countries pledged a record $1.5 billion (1.2 billion euros) in aid Syria and its neighbors. But so far only around 30 percent of the money has been received, according to figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The funds are desperately needed, since aid agencies depend on them to do their work.

Representatives of German aid organizations believe that the current reluctance to donate is linked to the lack of public attention given to the plight of the refugees compared to media coverage of the war's military and political aspects.

The German Red Cross raised 32.7 million euros for the earthquake victims in Haiti three years ago and 4 millions euros to alleviate the famine in eastern Africa in 2011. Funds raised for Syria last year amounted to 200,000 euros.

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