United Nations: Nearly Half the Syrian Population Now Refugees

The number of people who have fled Syria has passed a record 3 million since the conflict began three years ago, the United Nations reported Friday.

The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a statement that almost half of all Syrians have been forced to abandon their homes and flee. One in every eight Syrians have fled to other countries, with an additional 6.5 million people displaced within Syria. More than half of those uprooted are children.

“Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population under UNHCR care, second only in number to the decades-long Palestinian crisis,” UNHCR said in a statement. “The Syria operation is now the largest in UNHCR’s 64-year history.”

The organization described conditions inside the country as “horrifying.” Civilians are starving and being indiscriminately killed. And leaving Syria isn’t easy.

“There are worrying signs too that the journey out of Syria is becoming tougher, with many people forced to pay bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along the borders,” the statement said. “Refugees crossing the desert into eastern Jordan are being forced to pay smugglers hefty sums (US$100 a head or more) to take them to safety.”

The organization described conditions inside the country as “horrifying.” Civilians are starving and being indiscriminately killed. And leaving Syria isn’t easy.

“There are worrying signs too that the journey out of Syria is becoming tougher, with many people forced to pay bribes at armed checkpoints proliferating along the borders,” the statement said. “Refugees crossing the desert into eastern Jordan are being forced to pay smugglers hefty sums (US$100 a head or more) to take them to safety.”

Relocated Syrians face additional hardships in and outside refugee camps once they reach their destinations. More than 80% of Syrian refugees are struggling to make a living in communities outside of camps, and more than a third are living in substandard shelters.

The UNHCR said there are reports of difficulty finding work, surging food prices and inadequate services. “A packet of bread in one village near the city of Idlib costs ten times more this year than last, according to a new arrival in Jordan,” the statement said.

António Guterres, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the Syrian conflict is “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” the Syrian conflict is “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era.” Although there has been significant international support, the funds fall short of what is needed, he said.

“The world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” he said.

Donors have contributed more than $4.1 billion to help Syrian refugees since 2012, but the U.N. says more than $2 billion in additional funds is needed by the end of this year as more than 2.4 million refugees will need additional support in the coming weeks to prepare for winter.

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