9 million Syrians have been uprooted from their homes; half of the people displaced are children; 2.5 million Syrians have registered as refugees in neighbouring countries; this is Syria three years on.
Since the Syrian conflict erupted, Syria has become the world’s leading country of forced displacement. As of today 2,563,434 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting registration in neighbouring countries.
In a statement released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Friday, António Guterres said “It is unconscionable that a humanitarian catastrophe of this scale is unfolding before our eyes with no meaningful progress to stop the bloodshed.
The surrounding region of Syria is expected to become the largest refugee population in the world. Lebanon, for example, has the highest per-capital concentration of refugees of any country in recent history. The number of registered refugees in Lebanon that hail from Syria could grow to 1.6 million by the end of 2014.
“Imagine the crushing social and economic consequences of this crisis on Lebanon and other countries in the region,” Guterres added.
International support, beyond the parameters of the immediate neighbouring region of Syria, is integral. For example, in Europe, 56,000 asylum applications have been submitted by Syrians since March 2011 when the conflict began.
A mere 4% of Syrians who have fled from their native land have sought safety in Europe. But this trend is rising, however with grave consequences. An increasing number of Syrians are putting their lives in the hands of human smugglers, resultant of which has been the tragic death of 250 Syrians, who died whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
Furthermore, borders are being closed to Syrians in some instances. “What kind of a world is this where Syrians fleeing this violent conflict have to risk their lives to reach safety, and when they finally make it, they are not welcomed or even turned away at borders?” Guterres said.
UNCHR have played an instrumental role in ensuring that those seeking asylum in other countries should be able to do so. UNCHR, alongside UNICEF worked with the country’s Ministry of Education to get 30,000 refugee children in to the public school system in Lebanon.
In addition to their work in the realm of education, UNICEF Ireland Ambassador, Donncha O’Callaghan, travelled to the Beka region in Lebanon in June 2013. “What I saw out there absolutely shocked me. I couldn’t believe the dire state of it all”, Donncaha said, upon his return.
It saddened him greatly to see children suffering from severe infections due to dirty water.
“Imagine not being able to get a drink, a small basic human need”, he said.
During his time in Lebanon, Donncha spent time on a special caravan that travels throughout the entire Bekaa region, providing trauma counselling and therapy for children. These therapy sessions run by UNICEF are designed to help children cope and survive the mental and physical trauma of the Syrian conflict.
Donncha has been an Ambassador for UNICEF since August 2009, but the pressures the renowned Munster rugby star feel accompany such a title are much greater than those he ever feels when on a rugby pitch.
The UNICEF Ireland Ambassador understands the gravity of the Syrian crisis; “I’ve stood for anthems 94 times but I’ve never felt the pressure to get a story across than I have for things like this”, he said at the time.
3 years on, it is a crisis that must not be forgotten.
- The Forgotten Irish Graduate, March 2014