UN announces $1.5 B aid package for Syrian refugees

Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 2:00am

The United Nations has launched humanitarian plans worth $1.5 billion to help ease the suffering of millions of Syrians both inside and outside the country.

More than 525,000 Syrians have already crossed into neighboring countries, the United Nations announced Wednesday, and it estimated that more than a million will flee in the next six months.

The body believes that a quarter of Syria's population needs food, shelter, medical attention, hygiene materials, clothes and other relief after enduring nearly two years of war.

The United Nations is also asking for more than $520 million in additional aid, anticipating that the situation will only get worse in 2013.

That amount, officials believe, will help contribute to aid for an estimated 4 million people inside Syria who urgently need help. The number of residents suffering has quadrupled from 1 million in March 2012 to 4 million in December, the United Nations reported Wednesday.

Many have fled. Between 2,000 and 3,000 refugees are crossing into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq every day, according to the United Nations.

Plans to help Syria have changed much over the past several months, which is "indicative of the rapid developments on the ground and the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country," said Radhouane Nouicer, the regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria with the United Nations. "The magnitude of this humanitarian crisis is indisputable."

The aid announcement comes on the same day that one of the United Nations' outreach groups told reporters that about 100,000 Palestinians have fled a large refugee camp in the Syrian capital of Damascus due to government airstrikes and fighting there.

By daybreak Wednesday, 1,092 refugees from the Yarmouk camp had crossed into Lebanon through the Masnaa border crossing, seeking refuge with relatives in Palestinian camps in Bekaa, Sidon and Beirut.

Yamouk camp spokesman Abu Mohammed, who supports the Free Syrian Army's cause of unseating President Bashar al-Assad, told CNN that the Palestinian people at the camp are not fighting in the war.

"The camp was supposed to be a safe haven," he said. "This was created as a safe zone for refugees. No one can find anywhere else to go."

He said non-stop shelling on Yarmouk camp has forced tens of thousands to flee, but Mohammed estimates 100,000 remain. "You have a 100,000 people trapped under mortar shelling surrounded by a large Syrian Army presence. This could be a true massacre," he said.

He called on the international community for help.

Other developments

At least 90 people were killed across Syria Wednesday, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a Syrian based opposition activist network. Of those deaths, 43 occurred in Aleppo.

At least 40 people were killed and dozens were wounded by a car bomb that exploded in the Marjeh neighborhood, the LCC said.

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