6 Apr 2013

Shortage of funding hits UN refugee aid

12:18 pm on 6 April 2013

A UN agency is running out of funds for aid to Syrian refugees in Jordan and other countries.

"We are broke," said Marixie Mercado, a spokeswoman for UNICEF, a children's charity.

Some 1.2 million Syrians have fled since the uprising began in March 2011.

Around 385,500 have escaped to Jordan, with figures set to triple by the end of the year, Ms Mercado said.

UNICEF currently provides water, sanitation, vaccines, education and other essential services in the Zaatari camp, which houses nearly 150,000 refugees in Jordan.

So far the agency has received only $US12 million (19%) of the $57 million it has sought to fund its operations in Jordan this year.

"In concrete terms, this means that by June, we will stop delivering 3.5 million litres of water every day to Zaatari camp," Ms Mercado said in Geneva on Friday.

She added that the shortage of funds also meant UNICEF would be unable to provide supplies to two new camps which are due to open in the coming weeks.

UN officials said the lack of funding did not apply only to Jordan, but also to Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, who also other countries have large numbers of Syrian refugees.

The UN estimates that at least 70,000 people have been killed in Syria since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began, just over two years ago.