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Help for Syria’s refugees in Jordan and elsewhere

During the early stages of the conflict, Syrian refugees believed their flight to neighbouring countries would be temporary; now their numbers have risen to over 1.4 million and the UN expects this number to double in the next six months.

Jordan is home to many of those who have fled the conflict. Some families have managed to find accommodation in towns and cities, but a large number live in camps. The Za’atari camp in the northern desert, for example, was set up to house 60,000 people; now there are more than 100,000 living in this desert terrain, most of them in tents.

During the winter months, it was a struggle for the refugees to stay warm, but as summer approaches, high temperatures are expected to create problems. Jordan is one of the most water-stressed nations in the world and there are concerns that a lack of water could lead to dehydration and poor hygiene among refugees, increasing the risk of illness, especially among the most vulnerable – children and the elderly.

Aid agencies active in Zaatari are doing what they can to provide vital health assistance. So for example, the UN Population Fund has set up three centres to provide family planning, antenatal and postnatal services, with 13-15 babies born each day at the camp.

Recently, the five UN agencies assisting refugees issued an unprecedented joint appeal for funds, warning that they would have to suspend aid within weeks due to a lack of funding. This week, the situation has eased somewhat, as Kuwait handed over 275 million dollars to UN agencies (with another 25 million dollars provided to the International Committee of the Red Cross). UN officials praised this “big achievement”, the second largest donation made by a Gulf country to the UN.

In December, the UN had appealed for 1.5 billion to help Syrian people both inside and outside the country in the first six months of 2013. But as of 18 April, only half of this money had been received. The UN is now working on estimates for the funding which will be required in the second half of the year, as refugee numbers continue to rise. However, aid experts recognise that whatever the sums pledged by the international community, promises are never fully realised. On average, in 2000–2012, year-long UN humanitarian appeals received only two-thirds of the funding requested.

In the UK, the government is one of those to have honoured its funding pledge, its commitment finalised on the 18 April, according to a recent article in IRIN. The Disasters Emergency Committee (made up of 14 charities) also launched an appeal in the UK last month which has already raised over 10 million pounds.

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