|Syrian crisis is biggest humanitarian emergency of our era: UNHCR||
"The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them," United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement issued on Friday.
"The response to the Syrian crisis has been generous, but the bitter truth is that it falls far short of what's needed," Guterres added, according to AFP.
More than three million Syrians have fled the civil war ravaging their country to become refugees - a million of them in the past year alone, according to the statement.
"Syria's intensifying refugee crisis will today surpass a record three million people," the UN's refugee agency said, adding that the number did not include hundreds of thousands of others who fled without registering as refugees.
Less than a year ago, the number of registered Syrian refugees stood at two million, the office of the UNHCR said, pointing to reports of "increasingly horrifying conditions inside the country" to explain the surge.
It described "cities where populations are surrounded, people are going hungry and civilians are being targeted or indiscriminately killed."
The increasingly fragmented conflict raging in Syria has claimed more than 191,000 lives since erupting in March 2011, according to the UN.
In addition to the refugees, the violence has also displaced 6.5 million people within the country, meaning that nearly 50 percent of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes, UNHCR said.
Over half of all those who have been uprooted are children, it lamented.
Most of the Syrian refugees have found their way to neighboring countries, with Lebanon hosting an estimated 1.14 million, Jordan 608,000 and Turkey 815,000.
The strain on the host countries' economies, infrastructures and resources is "enormous," UNHCR stressed, adding that nearly 40 percent of the refugees were living in substandard conditions.
The agency said its work to help the Syrian refugees now marked the largest operation in its 64-year-history.
Donors have handed over more than $4.1 billion to help those affected by the conflict, but UNHCR said another $2.0 billion was needed by the end of this year alone to meet the urgent needs of the refugees.
UNHCR meanwhile decried that "increasing numbers of families are arriving (in neighboring countries) in a shocking state, exhausted, scared and with their savings depleted."
"Most have been on the run for a year or more, fleeing from village to village before taking the final decision to leave," it added, pointing out that for most of the one in eight Syrians who have become refugees, crossing the border was a last resort.
More than half of those arriving in Lebanon had fled at least once before crossing the border, while one in 10 had fled more than three times, UNHCR said, adding that one woman claimed to have moved no fewer than 20 times before crossing into Lebanon.
Meanwhile there are worrying signs that the journey out of Syria is becoming more difficult, the agency said.
The agency also voiced deep concern for several hundred Syrians trapped inside the remote al-Obaidi refugee camp in Iraq after UN agencies and other groups were forced to abandon their offices and warehouses as the region became overrun by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.
"National partners are continuing to provide supplies and maintenance, but the situation is volatile," it said.
Talks underway to obtain release of UN peacekeepers
Meanwhile, talks were underway Friday to obtain the release of 43 Fijian peacekeepers taken hostage by Syrian terrorists in the Golan Heights, the Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said.
Bainimarama said the peacekeepers were believed to be safe and his government was working closely with the United Nations to secure their release, AFP reported.
"The latest information we have is that they are safe and I can say now that the negotiations for their release have already begun," he said in a statement.
The Fijians, who were on duty in a UN-patrolled zone, were taken hostage by about 150 Syrian rebels on Thursday.
About 75 Filipino peacekeepers who refused to surrender were involved in a tense standoff with armed groups in the same area, Philippine officials said.
Seventy-five Filipino troops were defending two fortified posts after armed groups surrounded them on Thursday and demanded they give up their weapons, Colonel Roberto Ancan told reporters in Manila.
The military said the soldiers were occupying UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) posts about four kilometers (2.5 miles) apart in the buffer zone between Syria and Israel that was created after a 1974 ceasefire.
Ancan said the rebels used an English-speaking Fijian hostage to relay their demand to the Filipino peacekeepers, who refused and stood their ground.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino described the situation in the Golan Heights as "tense."
The UN Security Council "strongly condemned" the detention of the 43 and the "surrounding of positions" manned by the 75 other peacekeepers, by "terrorist groups and by members of non-state armed groups."
The council demanded the "unconditional and immediate release of all the detained United Nations peacekeepers" and urged countries with influence to help win their release.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said it was unclear which group had staged the attacks.
"Some groups are self-identified as affiliated to al-Nusra but we are not able to confirm," he said.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader