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northern syria refugees plight

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has for the first time reached an opposition-held area in northern Syria, saying some 45,000 displaced people there are living in “appalling” conditions.

Yacoub El-Hillo, the agency’s director for Middle East and North Africa, told journalists in Geneva today (1 February) that many people were staying in makeshift camps, with some sleeping in the open in sub-zero temperatures. He said UNHCR had managed to deliver 15,000 blankets and 3,000 tents.

In neighbouring countries, the refugee numbers have continued to grow this week and 728,553 Syrians are now either registered as refugees or awaiting registration. This number comprises 237,623 in Lebanon; 227,484 in Jordan; 163,161 in Turkey; 79,769 in Iraq; 14,478 in Egypt, and 6,338 in North Africa.

El-Hillo said “It is an appalling situation in Syria today, appalling, and all these figures probably are not capturing the true story of how Syria the people, but also Syria the country is facing systematic destruction.”

At the same briefing the UN children’s agency UNICEF, reported that 420,000 people – half of them children – need immediate help in Syria’s western governorate of Homs.

UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said the agency will now try to reach as many of those people as possible. She told reporters that 200 of 1,500 schools in Homs were damaged by Syria’s 22-month-old civil war, while another 65 schools shelter children and families.

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