July 6, 2007 / 11:44 AM / 12 years ago

Syria, Jordan left in lurch on Iraq refugees - U.N.

GENEVA, July 6 (Reuters) - U.N. refugee officials accused donor countries on Friday of leaving Syria and Jordan "in the lurch" by failing to offer aid as thousands of conflict victims flee Iraq each day, overwhelming hospitals and schools.

Syria and Jordan have received around 2 million refugees so far — many burned and maimed — with 2,000 new refugees alone pouring into Syria each day, said Ron Redmond, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

"It is unconscionable that generous host countries be left on their own to deal with such a huge crisis," Redmond said.

Donations so far total $70 million, with another $10 million pledged, but the UNHCR needs hundreds of millions of dollars to help the host countries cope, or risk seeing them grow reluctant to accept new refugees.

"The two countries caring for the biggest proportion of Iraqi refugees — Syria and Jordan — have still received next to nothing in bilateral help from the world community," Redmond said at a media briefing.

Redmond said the two countries were struggling to cope.

Syria has, for example, put its elementary schools on double shifts but still lacks capacity. "A whole generation of Iraqi children is in danger of missing out on an education," he said.

Aid agencies estimate that around 2 million Iraqis have fled the insurgency and sectarian violence that has erupted since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, with another 2 million uprooted but remaining within Iraq.

Syria alone says it is hosting 1.4 million Iraqi refugees, and the U.N. says that number is rising by a net 30,000 per month. Syria has said it needs $256 million to deal with the influx over the next two years.

At a UNHCR conference in Geneva in April, aid agencies and governments pledged support to help the host countries deal with the refugee influx.





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