(NEW YORK) — Syria needs $1.5 billion more in humanitarian aid, the United Nations said Wednesday, as the number of refugees fleeing violence is expected to swell to one million by mid-2013.
Since President Bashar al-Assad unleashed his military on opposition forces in March 2011, an estimated 40,000 people have died in the conflict, with over 500,000 seeking safe havens in other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
According to Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations regional coordinator for Syrian refugees, if assistance from the international community does not arrive immediately, “we will not be able to fully respond to the lifesaving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day, many in a truly desperate condition.”
Roughly two-thirds of the $1.5 billion sought by the U.N. would directly benefit Syrian refugees, while the remainder is earmarked for as many as four million people still in the country who are directly affected by escalating violence between al-Assad’s military and rebel fighters.
Attempting to put the scope of the humanitarian crisis into perspective, Radhouane Nouicer, United Nations coordinator of humanitarian aid, said the non-stop fighting means there are virtually no places left in Syria where people can find safety.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Sugam Pokharel and AJ Willingham, CNN
Ivana Kottasova, CNN