Syrian refugees could double or triple in 2013: UNHCR

Geneva, April 10 (IANS) The number of Syrian refugees is expected to witness a major rise by the end of this year, following shortage of fund for aid, the UN’s refugee agency has warned.

The number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries could double or triple amid huge funding shortfall which pushes the aid operations in the country to the breaking point, said an official with the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

To date, there are 1.3 million Syrian refugees registered or with appointments with UNHCR having fled to neighbouring countries, with three-quarter being women and children, said Panos Moumtzis, Syria Regional Refugee Coordinator of UNHCR.

It was a significant increase compared to a year ago when the figure was 30,000, he said while underlining the funding as “one of the most critical points as of today”.

UNHCR had appealed for over $1 billion ($1,000 million) to help estimated 1.1 million refugees in December 2012. But it has received about $ 300 million so far, he added.

“We want to ring the alarm bell. We are at a breaking point,” said Moumtzis, emphasizing that the lack of funding creates huge vulnerabilities such as exploitation and abuse, with women and children particularly affected.

He also warned that many assistance programs would have to shut down if funds fail to come quickly.

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