Guterres warns of dire consequences of lack of funding for Syria refugees

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres meets with Syrian refugees living near Ketermaya, southern Lebanon. (© UNHCR/M.Fleming)

Unless funding for Syrian refugees comes rapidly, urgently needed support could be denied to refugees in dire need and the region could become unstable.

The warning comes from UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who reiterated his call for governments to create special funds to support Syrian refugees and the countries that host them.

Speaking at a press conference in Beirut Friday, on the second anniversary of the start of the Syria conflict, Mr. Guterres said the escalation of the conflict and scale of human suffering in Syria was “staggering” and the “impact on the region unprecedented in recent decades.”

He said there is a widening gap between needs and the resources available to support Syrian victims. “There is no way a gap of this magnitude can be filled with current humanitarian budgets", he said. "We are witnessing not only a humanitarian tragedy, but also a threat to international peace and security. It is a question of enlightened self-interest.” He warned that if the war is not stopped, “there will be an explosion in the Middle East.”

Mr. Guterres said “There is a gap of US$700 million”, noting humanitarian organizations had received only 30 per cent of funds required to cover the basic needs of more than 1.1 million refugees. He expressed his hope that funds pledged at a 30 January conference in Kuwait would materialize and be devoted to the UN humanitarian response.

Mr. Guterres also appealed to the international community to recognize the enormous strain on host governments. Lebanon, host to more than 350,000 refugees, has witnessed a 10 per cent increase in its population in a period of one year. He said “This conflict represents an existential threat to Lebanon”, adding "Lebanon needs massive support". “It cannot do it alone."

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’40″

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