By the numbers: UN's Syrian refugee appeal

The UN asked today for $6.5 billion for Syria, its largest appeal ever for a single crisis. A breakdown of what's been requested, and where it would go.

Bilal Hussein/AP
A Syrian refugee woman fetches water at a refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal, Lebanon, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Tens of thousands of impoverished Syrian refugees live in tents, shacks and unfinished buildings throughout Lebanon.

The UN launched a record appeal to donors today, requesting $6.5 billion in funds to aid millions of people uprooted by the Syrian conflict.

The figure is “the largest-ever appeal for a single crisis” made by the UN, said Valerie Amos, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), according to a statement issued by the UN.

With no resolution in sight for the fighting, the multilateral organization predicts that the refugee flow will continue in the upcoming year. António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, warned that the humanitarian situation is dangerously close to slipping out of control, according to the UN statement:

“We’re facing a terrifying situation here where, by the end of 2014, substantially more of the population of Syria could be displaced or in need of humanitarian help than not.… This goes beyond anything we have seen in many, many years, and makes the need for a political solution all the much greater.”

The appeal was presented by the two UN agencies spearheading the Syrian aid effort, OCHA and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In the three years since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011, refugees have streamed into neighboring Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey. Their numbers are swelling relentlessly, creating refugee camps the size of cities, where hundreds of thousands struggle to eke out a living amid growing desperation. (Just one example of how dire the situation has become is the rising number of young Syrian women refugees being pushed into early marriage to gain even a semblance of certainty and protection.)  

Observers were quick to point out that the UN’s record request is unlikely to be funded in full, with dim implications for hundreds of thousands of people in need of help. BBC correspondent Imogen Foulkes explains the uphill battle:

Despite the huge needs, the UN is unlikely to get all the money it wants. It is almost unheard of for a UN appeal to be 100% funded: this year's request for Syria is only 60% funded, the request for the Central African Republic stands at less than 50%.

The reasons for shortfalls are complex: some traditional donors (Europe, the United States) are struggling with financial deficits. And with some crises, Syria is one of them, donors are worried their money may end up in the wrong hands.

Here is a look at the UN’s appeal by the numbers:

2.3 million: The number of refugees who fled across Syria’s borders to neighboring countries since March 2011, according to the UN assessment.

4.1 million: The anticipated number of refugees in one year’s time, according to the UN forecast

$4.2 billion: The amount the UN requested to assist Syrian refugees in the region in 2014, based on today’s appeal. The funds, if raised, will assist both the refugees and the communities hosting them in the neighboring countries. 

20 percent: The portion of Lebanon’s population that is now comprised of Syrian refugees. Lebanon has borne the heaviest brunt of the refugee crisis. UNHCR estimates that close to 843,000 Syrians have fled to the country, whose population stood at 4.1 million in 2011.

120,000: The estimated number of Syrians who seek shelter in neighboring countries every month, according to UNHCR Spokesman Peter Kessler who spoke with the Washington Post.

6.5 million: The number of people internally displaced by the conflict who remain in Syria, according to the UN estimate. Reaching many of them remains a nearly impossible task for security reasons.

$2.3 billion: The amount the UN today requested to assist Syrian refugees internally displaced in Syria. 

$12.9 billion: The full amount requested by the UN for humanitarian causes for 2014. Syria represents 50 percent of this amount. The rest is slated to be divided among a handful of other countries that include the typhoon-hit Philippines, Sudan, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Congo, and Haiti.

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