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Syria Displacement Crisis Worsens As Protracted Humanitarian Emergency Looms

The Refugee Crisis Every day, thousands of Syrians who can no longer bear the violence and hardship at home stream into Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and increasingly North Africa to find safe haven. About 30 percent settle in refugee camps.  And while the international community allocates the bulk of its limited resources to these camps, many remain overcrowded, overstretched and unprepared for the brutal winter.

The vast majority of Syrians who have fled (100 percent in Lebanon and about 80 percent in Jordan, 50 percent in Iraq and 30 percent in Turkey) are now "urban refugees". "Even though 70 percent of Syria's refugees live outside of camps in urban and rural areas, there is a dearth of funding for programs to assist them," says George Rupp, the IRC's president, who led the commission visit to the region in November. "As a result, Syrian refugees not living in camps are grossly underserved and growing increasingly destitute and desperate."

Multiple families crowd into small rented rooms and apartments in disrepair or schools and other spaces provided by host governments. Others squat in unused spaces in poor districts that lack the capacity to assist them. Many refugees arrive with war wounds and illnesses, yet struggle to access health care. Most flee with few belongings and little money, have seen their finances dwindle and can no longer afford food, clothing and other basics. Unable to work legally in most host countries, many have taken loans and are in deepening debt. The IRC heard accounts of desperate women trading sex for food, children being forced to work in exploitative or dangerous jobs and families selling girls into early marriage to reduce household numbers or pay rent. The IRC is stepping up cash assistance programs for non-camp refugees in Jordan and Lebanon to help pay for daily expenses, but the needs remain immense.

Syrian children and youth have been gravely impacted by the violence and upheaval of their families.  Nearly every child will speak about witnessing family members attacked or killed and many children have been caught in the crossfire or targeted with violence. Many Syrian children have already missed up to two years of their education because of the unrest. And schooling for thousands of refugee children remains interrupted because classes in host communities are full and unable to absorb more refugee students. For those fortunate enough to attend school, most teachers are ill-equipped to assist such traumatized children and specialized services are largely unavailable. 

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