Published On: Mon, Mar 11th, 2013

United Nations – Syria is a ‘Hemorrhaging Country’

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By Lara Setrakian and Karen Leigh from Syria Deeply
Syria is a “hemorrhaging country,” says Panos Moumtzis, the UNHCR’s regional refugee coordinator for the Syria crisis. He spoke with Syria Deeply founder Lara Setrakian in a Google Hangout this week, shortly after Syria’s official refugee toll hit the 1 million mark.

He expressed frustration with a lack of international aid, saying that only a fraction of the $1.5 billion in pledged support had materialized after last month’s donor conference in Kuwait.

“We’re really going from hand to mouth. We don’t have time to put any aid in the warehouses. It goes from the trucks straight to the beneficiary, because we only have a quarter of the funding needed,” he said.

Moumtzis called the conflict a children’s crisis. “It’s really heartbreaking to talk to the children and listen to them,” he said.

“They stop talking when they arrive in the camps. They are a lot more withdrawn. Parents report bed wetting. They have eye-witnessed horrific scenes, the stories they have seen we cannot even report. What they tell us, what they draw when they come over.” He said his organization was trying to instill structure into the lives of young refugees, “ensuring that there is education, that there are schools. A little normalcy for these children.”

“What needs to happen a lot more is there has to be a more robust support and funding from the international community to address other issues in these countries,” he said. “Unemployment, support for the host communities, looking at the bigger picture, because there is a fear for the regionalization of the conflict. We are very worried when we look at the fragility of Lebanon… we’re very worried about the economic indicators. Ten percent of the refugee population in Lebanon are Syrian refugees, and Lebanon is receiving the biggest impact of Syrian refugees coming from Damascus.

He added that more than 8,000 cross from Syria’s borders every day, “so the numbers are really frightening.” But “it’s not the numbers, it’s the stories, the individuals. The old woman, the young child, the pregnant mother… I was just in Zaatari yesterday, I met a refugee woman, 101 years old. It’s really heartbreaking to see these elderly coming out, having endured so much, having gone through so much tragedy, for them to have to leave their homes. So when all these people arrive, they have to have the border open and we are there, of course, to help to take them to a safe location and help them with humanitarian assistance.”

 

Caption: Senior digital editor/writer Christopher Reardon of UNHCR compiled this infographic to commemorate the one millionth Syrian refugee.

Caption: Senior digital editor/writer Christopher Reardon of UNHCR compiled this infographic to commemorate the one millionth Syrian refugee.

About the Author

- Dean Walsh is the owner and editor of World News Curator. He also owns and runs Ourly News and a range of other online publications.

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