Syrians are fleeing their country in greater number every day, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries while an estimated 2.5 million others are severely affected by the continued conflict inside the country, UN officials said Thursday.
Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told the UN Security Council during a debate on the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria that there were as of Wednesday 229,000 Syrians registered as refugees in Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
He warned that Syrian refugees were "rapidly growing" every day in those four countries and the armed conflict has led to a "dramatic and deepening humanitarian crisis" for the region, dpa reported.
UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson told the council that the UN had received only half of the 180 million dollars it had been seeking in past months to assist Syrians affected by the intensified fighting.
The council held the special debate to highlight the humanitarian crisis developing in the Middle East region and to seek financial support from the international community.
"The most pressing needs include water and sanitation, food and shelter, blankets and health care," Eliasson said. "Less than half of primary health care facilities and hospitals are now fully functional in Syria."
France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who presided over the council meeting, and Britain's Foreign Minister William Hague said they plan to call an international development conference to prepare Syria for the post conflict.
"We are preparing the ground for immediate measures to assist the Syrian people in the post-Assad period," Fabius said, predicting that President Bashar al-Assad "will fall" from power.
Both Fabius and Hague said they have "converging and identical ideas" to assist the Syrian people. They plan to develop joint initiatives ranging from humanitarian assistance to the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed under the Assad government.
"We are ruling nothing out and we have contingency planning for a wide range of scenarios," Hague said.
"Our two nations are also determined to help hold to account those responsible for human rights abuses in Syria," Hague said.
In addition to Fabius and Hague, the council meeting was attended by foreign ministers from Jordan, Turkey and high-ranking foreign ministry officials from other countries. But Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not attend. They were represented by their permanent ambassadors to the UN.