Syria’s civil war is now four years old, and there is no end in sight. A variety of international efforts to halt the bloodshed have stymied some of the world’s most seasoned diplomats.
One group of people losing out most from this grinding war are Syria’s refugees. Of the millions displaced by the war, about 4 million people have left Syria entirely. Most of them have fled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that it’s again facing its recurring problem: donors don’t pay what they promise.
UNHCR has only received about $1 billion of the nearly $5 billion it needs to provide basic assistance to Syrian refugees.
“Our income keeps growing but the problem is our needs keep mushrooming,” says Melissa Fleming, chief spokesperson for UNHCR.
She says only 23 percent of this year’s funding goal has been delivered so far. And winter is coming.
A quarter of the people who have fled Syria live in tiny Lebanon, which per capita has the highest number of Syrian refugees — today, a quarter of its population.
“It is always the case that funding received does not match the needs on the ground,” says Dana Sleiman, spokesperson for UNHCR in Beirut.
Sleiman says UNHCR proceeds with its plans whether the funding is there or not, because they have no choice. “If and when funding does not come through, the repercussions are severe,” she explains.
So severe that more and more Syrian refugees are again risking their lives on sea voyages to Europe.