GENEVA - The U.N. is appealing for $5.5 billion to support millions of Syrian refugees, and the neighboring countries hosting them in the coming years.
The U.N. praises Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq for their support in offering asylum and protection to millions of refugees from Syria, which is now in its eighth year of crisis. But, the support, they say, has taken a heavy toll on the economies and development of these host countries.
The global body says conditions for both the refugees and the communities in which they live have deteriorated since Syria's civil war broke out in 2011. It says 70- to 80 percent of the refugees live under the poverty line, children are deprived of education and many are forced to work to help them and their families survive.
The U.N. refugee agency's director for the Middle East and North Africa, Amin Awad, says the war in Syria has for the most part ended. As the situation improves, he says some refugees are going home.
"There are many obstacles that are on the way of return inside Syria and we are working with the government of Syria with other countries neighboring Syria and with the International Community at large to help remove these obstacles for return and create environments that are conditions for the return of refugees. Until then, we repeat, we ask the donors to stay the course," said Awad.
Awad says Syria is far from stable, with conflicts continuing in places such as Idlib and erupting in others. He says the refugee crisis is far from over. That means both the Syrians living in neighboring countries and their host communities will require international support for the foreseeable future.
The UNHCR says nearly 117,000 refugees have returned spontaneously to Syria since 2016. That is a fraction of the 5.6 million refugees still living in exile.
The U.N. agencies say the appeal will provide the refugees with health, water, sanitation, food, education, psycho-social support, community services and other essential relief. Assistance also will be given to nearly 4 million people in the communities hosting them.
They say those communities are under great strain. Humanitarian operations, they say, will be geared toward assisting them through livelihoods and economic opportunities, as well as basic services and support to help local institutions and municipalities function better.