World Must Not Turn Away As Syrian Refugees Sink Deeper Into Crisis: UN Report

Members of a family gather on the floor of their dilapidated apartment in downtown Amman, Jordan. (Photo: UNHCR/B. Szandelszky)

World Must Not Turn Away As Syrian Refugees Sink Deeper Into Crisis: UN Report

New study from UN's refugee agency finds nearly half of Syrian refugee households in Jordan living without heat

As Syrian refugees displaced to Jordan plunge into a "deepening humanitarian crisis," rife with unlivable conditions and abject poverty, the international community must not turn away from their plight, urges a report released Wednesday by the United Nations.

The study, based on UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) survey information collected from 41,976 Syrian refugee households in Jordan between January and June 2014, finds that two-thirds of this population is living below the absolute poverty line of $96 per person per month, with one in six trapped in absolute poverty with a budget of $1.30 per day.

Approximately 620,000 Syrian refugees are registered as living in Jordan, 84 percent of them outside of official refugee camps. When interviewed, nearly half of respondents said their living conditions are bad or uninhabitable, with 46 percent of households reporting no heating and 20 percent saying they have no functioning toilet.

Many displaced Syrians in Jordan have been forced to take their children out of school, sell their jewelry, borrow money, reduce food consumption, and live with other refugees to get by. The longer the displacement, the deeper the poverty, the report finds.

"Life as a Syrian refugee in Jordan is like being in quick sand," said one respondent, identified as Mohammad, a father of four. "Whenever I move, I sink a little bit further."

Antonio Guterres, head of UNHCR, issued an urgent appeal for more global assistance.

"Unless the international community increases its support to refugees, families will opt for ever more drastic coping strategies. More children will drop out of school to work and more women will be at risk of exploitation, including survival sex," said Guterres, speaking from Jordan.

However, wealthy nations, including the United States, have been slow to respond to the crisis. The United States has taken in a mere 300 refugees so far, according to a New York Times article published last month, compared to the 3.8 million Syrian refugees absorbed by Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.

Furthermore, according to a September 2014 report by the charity Oxfam, wealthy nations, especially the United States, are failing to provide their "fair share" in funds for resettlement and aid to Syrian people.

The UNHCR report on Jordan follows warnings from the United Nations Children's Fund issued Tuesday that "at least seven million internally displaced and refugee children are in desperate need of assistance as bitter winter snows and torrential rains continue to batter the Middle East."

As of Tuesday, at least six children in the region had lost their lives to extreme winter weather.

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