UN: Syrian refugees to top 5 million by 2015

The organization faces a funding shortage to help care for the masses leaving Syria

A Syrian refugee hangs her laundry outside a tent provided by the U.N. at the Quru Gusik refugee camp in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq on Aug. 27, 2013.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images

Millions more refugees are expected to flee war-ravaged Syria in the next year, adding to an exodus that has already overwhelmed North African and other Middle Eastern countries as well as the United Nations’ humanitarian-response team.

The United Nations expects another 2 million Syrians to become refugees in 2014 and 2.25 million more to be displaced within the country, according to a U.N. document obtained by Reuters on Monday.

More than 2 million people have left the country since fighting between rebels and the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad broke out in March of 2011. The flood of refugees has caused headaches for countries that want to extend a welcoming hand to Syrians but say that they are overwhelmed with the effects of so many new people living in their towns and cities and that they are worried that radicals are among those coming in.

The crisis has also strained the U.N., which says it needs billions of dollars more to adequately care for the people pouring out of Syria.

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Officials from 10 U.N. agencies, the International Organization for Migration and 18 other aid groups met in Amman, Jordan, on Sept. 26 to plan their response to the crisis for 2014.

"The most likely scenario was perceived to be continuation and escalation of the conflict, with increased fragmentation, disruption of essential services and further erosion of coping mechanisms," an official from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told the meeting.

The OCHA forecast that up to 8.3 million people would be in need by the end of 2014 — more than a third of Syria's prewar population of 23 million and a 37 percent increase from 2013 — including 6.5 million internally displaced people.

The number of refugees was expected to hit 3.2 million by the end of 2013 and rise an additional 2 million next year, the summary said.

The bulk of Syrian refugees have so far been registered in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

In the absence of any solid prospects for peace in a war that has killed more than 100,000 people, U.N. agencies have begun shifting the focus of aid planning from an emergency response to helping Syria and its neighbors meet huge humanitarian needs in the long term.

A planned international conference to end the conflict has been repeatedly postponed and is now penciled in for mid-November.

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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