Last updated: 7 December, 2012

UN chief urges more Syria refugee aid

UN chief Ban Ki-moon appealed Friday for more aid to help hundreds of thousands who have fled the Syrian conflict, as he visited a refugee camp in neighbouring Jordan.

“I call on the international community and particularly the countries of the region to provide on (an) urgent basis humanitarian assistance,” he said at the Zaatari camp in Jordan, which hosts more than 250,000 Syrians.

“We cannot close our eyes while people are suffering and dying. We have to help them.”

The camp, near the border with Syria, itself hosts about 45,000 Syrian refugees, according to Jordanian officials.

“The United Nations is working hard to alleviate the suffering of Syrians inside and outside their country,” Ban told reporters after meeting with UNHCR officials at the camp.

“(The) UN appeal for humanitarian assistance has been only half funded. We have witnessed a tripling in the number of refugees,” he said, warning that “any serious escalation in Syria would lead to a dramatic increase” in numbers.

A week ago, Ban predicted Syrian refugee numbers would surge to more than 700,000 by January as the country’s conflict reaches “appalling heights of brutality”.

The UN estimates there are currently 460,000 refugees in neighbouring countries and North Africa, as well as another 20,000 in Europe.

Hundreds of Syrians cross the border daily into Jordan, fleeing the fighting between troops of President Bashar al-Assad and the rebels in their country.

Violence in Syria has killed more than 42,000 people since the start of an uprising in March 2011, says the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

“Some are still suffering of trauma of torture and abuse of their human rights and dignity. I am shocked, saddened and even angry at this human tragedy,” Ban said.

“I count on the Jordanian government to keep borders open for Syrian refugees. I appeal all sides and particularly the Syrian government to stop the violence in the name of humanity.”