A Syrian refugee washes clothes at Masharih Al-Qaa in Bekaa Valley October 16, 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
The UN regional humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Radhoune Nouicer, shockingly revealed during a press conference in Cairo Thursday that women and children make up around 75 per cent of the "growing" Syrian refugee population spreading across bordering states of the war-torn country.
The UN press briefing was called to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation for Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq and the challenge of providing for refugees' basic needs ahead of winter, including fuel, heating and electricity.
Nouicer pointed out that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), along with other UN agencies, has started to address these "winter-related challenges" through developing a preparedness strategy.
The strategy is based on three main priorities: first, the rehabilitation of communal shelters hosting internally displaced people, including schools and other public and private buildings; second, distribution of essential non-food items, such as mattresses, blankets, quilts, winter clothing, kitchen sets and jerry cans; and third, provision of one-time cash assistance to affected families in order to help them meet immediate shelter needs.
"The impact of the conflict has aggravated existing vulnerabilities, such as increasing unemployment, inflation and depreciation, and the dramatic increase in market prices," Nouicer stated.
The refugee crisis continues to worsen as the conflict escalates in Syria's largest cities — Aleppo, Damascus, Idlib and Al-Raqqa. Increasing numbers of people have been forced to flee these cities, and over 42,000 are now in temporary shelters. Military operations against rebels have also intensified in Homs and Qusayr.
Moreover, fighting moved to the Syrian-Turkish border and tensions between the two countries escalated when, on 3 October, shelling from Syria claimed the life of five women and children in the Turkish village of Akcakale, triggering Turkish retaliatory fire into Syria.
Some 1.2 million Syrians of the 22.5 million population are internally displaced, many staying in schools and other public buildings. Over 340,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries and North Africa.
Jordan remains the country hosting the largest refugee community at 105,000, though Jordanian authorities estimate the actual number of refugees, including those non-registered, to be over 200,000.
A recently issued UN press report estimated the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt to be at least 40,000. The report added that Syrians registered with UNHCR Cairo are few and haven't exceeded 1000 individuals despite the highly estimated figure.
Nonetheless, UNHCR has been receiving an increased number of asylum requests from Syrian nationals in Egypt recently because of efforts exerted to reach out to the Syrian community.
The office has registered 4,830 individuals by 15 October. In addition, 239 Syrian families filed applications at UNHCR Cairo and are awaiting registration. It is expected that the numbers of registered Syrians will reach 10,000-12,000 by the end of the year if the rate of registered Syrians continues on the same pattern.