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Steven M. Hilton: Syrian refugee crisis outstrips global aid
April 04, 2015
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The United Nations food agency has announced that it is being forced to cut off aid to thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey because of a lack of funds. For now, the Turkish government will have to fill the funding gap left by the United Nation’s withdrawal.

But as home to the world’s largest population of Syrian refugees, Turkey is taking responsibility for an unfair share of the fallout from Syria’s civil war. Without an aggressive international effort – as well as significant funds from foreign governments and private philanthropists – the unthinkable suffering of Syrian refugees will only increase.

While Turkey is doing an admirable job, the global community must do more to alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis – not just for humanitarian reasons, but for the region’s political stability, too.

Although Turkey has enjoyed extraordinary progress in the past half-century, the nation faces severe challenges to its security. Among these is the Syrian refugee crisis, a tragedy that also affects Jordan and Lebanon.

This is the largest humanitarian crisis in modern times. Close to 12 million people have been displaced by nearly four years of war in Syria, including 3.8 million who have fled to neighbouring countries. It’s the largest population displacement since World War II.

Along the Turkish border, about 250,000 refugees are housed in just 25 camps. More than 1.5 million more refugees are scattered throughout Turkey’s urban areas. To the nation’s great credit, it has made every effort to accommodate these refugees. But this crisis is not a burden that Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan should be expected to bear alone.

Turkey has already spent more than $5 billion to serve the refugees – making the country the fourth-largest provider of humanitarian assistance in the world in 2013. These efforts have put an enormous strain on Turkey’s ability to address the needs of its own underserved populations. This situation is not sustainable.

Now that UN support is waning, human suffering will only grow – as will the potential for political instability in the region. Children have been hit especially hard. The 2 million refugees under the age of 18, most without access to education or jobs, are at risk of becoming a lost generation. If they do, the repercussions are not difficult to imagine.

Such efforts, however, are far from adequate. Nothing short of massive international support is needed – and it’s needed now.

US humanitarian assistance has been strong – taxpayers have provided more than $3 billion in aid since the beginning of the Syrian conflict. America’s Western allies and regional partners must do more. Corporations with investments in the region also have an obligation to help address this crisis.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees recently warned the UN Security Council that Syria’s refugee crisis is approaching a “dangerous turning point,” as nearly 4 million Syrians face worsening conditions living in exile.

The crisis is an instance where the globe’s security interests and moral obligations are in perfect alignment. That’s why it’s time for the international community to do more to alleviate the enormous suffering of Syrian refugees.

Tribune News Service

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