The Syrian civil war has now forced 2million refugees to flee the country, it was revealed today.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees described the conflict as ‘the great tragedy of this century’ as he laid bare the scale of the suffering it has caused, with more than 1million children forced out of their homeland.
In addition to those who have left Syria during the two-and-a-half-year war, 4.25million people have been displaced within the country.
In total, around a third of the population have been forced to leave their homes, meaning the conflict has prompted the world’s biggest refugee crisis.
President Bashar Assad has warned that a Western military strike in response to last month’s chemical weapons attacks could provoke a regional war.
UN special envoy Angelina Jolie said the world is ‘tragically disunited’ on how to end the bloody conflict, which has so far cost more than 100,000 lives, but must do more to help its victims.
The world risks being dangerously complacent about the Syrian humanitarian disaster,’ the Hollywood actress said. ‘The tide of human suffering unleashed by the conflict has catastrophic implications.
‘If the situation continues to deteriorate at this rate, the number of refugees will only grow, and some neighbouring countries could be brought to the point of collapse.
‘The world is tragically disunited on how to end the Syria conflict. But there should be no disagreement over the need to alleviate human suffering, and no doubt of the world’s responsibility to do more.’
High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said: ‘Syria has become the great tragedy of this century – a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history.
‘The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighbouring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees.’
More than 97 per cent of Syria’s refugees are hosted by countries in the immediate surrounding region which urgently need massive international support to help them deal with the crisis, the agency said.
With an average of almost 5,000 Syrians fleeing into neighbouring countries every day, the need to increase significantly humanitarian aid and development support to host communities has reached a critical stage, it added.
By the end of August, 2million Syrians had applied to register as refugees – including 716,000 in Lebanon, 515,000 in Jordan, 460,000 in Turkey, 168,000 in Iraq and 110,000 in Egypt.
More than half – 52 per cent – of the refugees are children aged 17 or under.
William Hague wrote on Twitter: ‘1 year ago: 230,000 Syrian refugees. Today: 2,000,000. 1/2 children. If we don’t end the conflict, think what the figure could be next year.’
The conflict has prompted the worst humanitarian crisis since Afghanistan’s civil war, which created 6.6million refugees in the early 1990s.
As Barack Obama began efforts to secure Congressional approval to strikes against the Assad regime, Republican senator John McCain said failure would be ‘catastrophic’.
Mr Obama announced at the weekend that he would put the decision to a vote – days after David Cameron was forced to rule out British participation after losing a Commons vote.
Downing Street insisted the PM had ‘absolutely no plans’ to force a new vote despite some pressure from senior Conservatives to leave the option open should strong new evidence emerge
There is mounting pressure in France for its involvement in any strikes to be put to a parliamentary vote, and Mr Assad used an interview with a French newspaper to issue his warning.
‘The Middle East is a powder-keg, and today the spark is getting closer,’ he told Le Figaro. ‘One must not talk only about the Syrian response, but also about what could happen after the first strike.’
International Development Secretary Justine Greening said there needs to be a ‘broader global response’ to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
‘We have reached this terrible two million landmark of refugees as the UN has said now outside of Syria, four to five million internally displaced inside Syria,’ she told ITV’s Daybreak today.
‘It’s a huge catastrophe and the UK has played a leading role in the humanitarian support we’re providing, but we really need to see the rest of international community step up to the plate and join those countries like the UK who are playing a key role.’
Oxfam’s Syria response campaign manager Claire Seaward said: ‘We are appalled that this landmark has been reached today.
‘Enough is enough. A generation of Syrians is paying too high a price in this conflict. They have been seriously let down by the international community, which has failed to prioritise a political solution to the conflict. That must change.
‘World leaders – especially President Obama and President Putin – must ensure the long-promised peace talks take place as soon as possible.’
David Bull, executive director of Unicef UK, warned that the humanitarian response to the situation in Syria is ‘dangerously underfunded’.
He said: ‘More than half of the staggering number of refugees who have been forced to flee Syria are children and all have lived through experiences that no child should.
‘They have lost everything they have ever known and are now struggling to cope in desperate conditions, many with insufficient access to safe water, school or healthcare. In Iraq alone, around 50,000 new Syrian refugees have surged into the country in the past two and a half weeks.
‘Despite the current attention on the political situation in Syria, the humanitarian response to this crisis remains dangerously underfunded.’
Posted by Salmon Abiodun