Over the next five days I will visit NRC operations in Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, where my colleagues are working hard to provide shelter, water, education and protection to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria. I will be meeting with refugees, host community members, partners and, of course, the NRC field teams doing some of the most difficult and important work in the world.
In the past two and a half years, fighting in Syria has triggered one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of our time.
The sheer numbers are staggering:
Over 6.25 million people have been displaced within Syria and throughout the region. That represents almost four times the number of people displaced by the devastating Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004.
Nearly two million refugees – six times the total number of asylum applicants in all 27 EU countries combined in 2012 – have taken refuge in neighbouring countries, completely overwhelming the communities that have taken them in.
Throughout the region security continues to deteriorate. The political, military and sectarian dimensions of the conflict in Syria are aggravating divisions and tensions in refugee hosting countries. Infrastructure and services – like medical facilities and schools – are becoming overstretched, and the cost of food, rent and other basic items has been driven up as the cost of labour is driven down. Communities that welcomed refugees a year ago are becoming increasingly resistant to receiving new arrivals from Syria.
Still, refugee numbers continue to mount, and regional assistance plans – designed to provide for refugees and vulnerable members of the host community – continue to be vastly underfunded.
Inside Syria, at least 4.25 million people have been displaced from their homes. Basics like food, water, and fuel are harder and harder to come by, and only a fraction of the necessary aid is getting through.
Overall, eight million people – roughly equivalent to the entire population of Switzerland – are in urgent need of lifesaving assistance, but statistics make it easy to forget that we are talking about people, millions upon millions of lives that will never be the same. Over the next five days I will try to break down these numbers and shed light on the individuals, the families and the communities coping with this humanitarian tragedy. We must find a way to do better.
Follow Jan on twitter at @NRC_Egeland, and follow his field visits at #SGsDiary.