* Rate up from 2,000 to 3,000 a day late last year
* UNHCR says could surpass 1 million well before June
* Water shortages worsening in Syria, UNICEF says
(Adds details, quotes)
By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA, Feb 8 About 5,000 refugees are fleeing
Syria each day, seeking safe haven from war and its devastating
impact on basic living conditions, the United Nations said on
An acceleration in the exodus - up from 2,000 to 3,000 late
last year - means the total could exceed one million refugees
well before the end of June, its previous forecast, the U.N.
refugee agency said.
"This is a full-on crisis," Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing
in Geneva. "There was a huge increase in January alone, we're
talking about a 25 percent increase in registered refugee
numbers over a single month."
About 150,000 Syrians poured across Syria's borders in
January, most into Jordan and Lebanon which have seen a massive
increase in the inflow.
Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000
Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing
in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey. The
total includes 15,000 in Egypt, where the U.N.'s World Food
Programme began this week to distribute food vouchers.
"We are working around the clock to keep up with the needs
and demands of the refugees," UNHCR spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes
The UNHCR, in a nearly $1 billion funding appeal in
mid-December, forecast that there could be up to 1 million
Syrian refugees by the end of June.
"At the rate that refugees are arriving, we can expect to
surpass the one million mark months before," Wilkes said.
Turkey has spent more than $600 million sheltering refugees
from the conflict, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek said. More
than 177,000 Syrian refugees are in 16 camps with thousands more
staying with relatives or in private
President Bashar al-Assad's forces fought back on Friday in
an effort to retake sections of the Damascus ring road from
rebels trying to tighten their noose around the capital,
opposition activists said.
Around Syria, water shortages are worsening and supplies are
sometimes contaminated, putting children at increased risk of
diseases, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.
The agency's first nationwide assessment revealed that water
supplies in areas affected by the conflict are one-third of
pre-crisis levels, UNICEF said.
"It points to a severe disruption of services, damage done
to water and sanitation systems, and limited access to basic
hygiene, all of which puts children at a much increased risk of
disease," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told the briefing.
Six places were identified as most at risk - rural Damascus,
Idlib, Deir al-Zor, Homs, Aleppo and al-Raqqah.
Dirty water diseases including Hepatitis A are spreading in
Syria, compounding the problems of hospitals that are perilously
short of medicine and doctors, the World Health Organization
said on Tuesday.
"Interviews conducted with recently arrived refugees in
Zaatari camp in Jordan said that a large majority of households
were reporting cases of diarrhoea among children and adults, as
well as scabies and head lice," Mercado said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Oliver Holmes and