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More Funds Needed as Syrians Flood Jordan

Newly arrived Syrian refugees wait to receive aid at the Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on 25 January. The United Nations urged neighboring countries to keep open their borders to civilians fleeing the intensifying conflict in Syria. More than 30,000 refugees have arrived at the Zaatri camp this year, including 6,400 in the last two days. (photo: CNS/Muhammad Hamed, Reuters)  

30 Jan 2013 – By Dale Gavlak

AMMAN, Jordan (CNS) — As frightened Syrian refugees flood into Jordan and other nearby countries, U.N. officials at a donor conference in Kuwait appealed to the international community for desperately needed funding for victims of the 22-month crisis.

The U.N. said a December request for $1.5 million to aid displaced Syrians received less than 3 percent in pledges, hardly enough to handle the spiraling numbers. In Kuwait, media reported, the agency received about $1 million in pledges.

Caritas, a humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church, is aiding about one-quarter of the Syrians seeking shelter in Jordan, said Omar Abawi of the group’s emergency response unit.

Each day in the last week of January, 3,000 Syrian refugees flooded into Jordan — about 5 times above the previous average of 700 per day. Jordan hosts some 320,000 displaced Syrians, almost half of the 700,000 housed in the region. About 2.5 million Syrians are displaced within their own country.

While the U.N. and a Jordanian aid organization are responsible for about 83,000 refugees in Jordan’s sole Zaatari refugee camp, Caritas and others assist the larger bulk found in communities along the border and farther afield.

Caritas has distributed food coupons, medical aid and heaters during this abnormally cold winter, which has included rain, snow and temperatures below freezing.

“Although we’ve nearly reached our own appeal for $1.7 million, we expect the numbers will need to be revised again, because Syrian refugee numbers could top 500,000 here even before April,” Abawi said.

Besides supplying practical items, Caritas is working with refugees on peace-building and social integration efforts in preparation for future reconciliation among Syria’s diverse ethnic and religious communities split apart by the civil war.

In Zaatari camp, recent arrivals stood along a metal fence to register. One 70-year-old man, whose eyes were red from crying, would identify himself only by his nickname, Abu Mohamed, for fear of reprisals against family members still in Syria.

“I came with 24 members of my family after my son was shot by government snipers” as he stopped to buy bread on the way home from work.

“Nobody helped to bring him to a hospital, and he bled to death,” Abu Mohamed said, as tears streamed down his face.

Ra’ed Bahou of The Catholic Near East Welfare Association said aid agencies and Jordanian officials “are doing our best, but it’s not enough.”

He said CNEWA also was helping 2,000 Iraqis who once lived in Syria and have been displaced for a second time to Jordan by providing food coupons, hygiene supplies and heaters. It also pays for education in the kingdom’s Catholic schools.

“It’s impossible to cope with 3,000-4,000 Syrians arriving a day, and we don’t know what future donations will be available to Jordan,” Bahou said.

Addressing the gathering in Kuwait, Jordan’s ruler said his kingdom cannot cope with a steep spike in Syrians fleeing intensified fighting.

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Tags: Refugees CNEWA Syrian Civil War Jordan Caritas