U.N. says 5,000 Syrian refugees fleeing each day

GENEVA Fri Feb 8, 2013 11:10am GMT

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GENEVA (Reuters) - About 5,000 refugees are fleeing Syria each day, seeking safe haven in neighbouring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

"This is a full-on crisis," Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva. "There was a huge increase in January alone, we're talking about a 25 percent increase in registered refugee numbers over a single month."

Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing in the region, mainly Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, he said.

In Syria, water shortages are worsening and supplies are sometimes contaminated, putting children at an increased risk of diseases, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.

The agency's first nationwide assessment revealed that water supplies in areas affected by the conflict are one-third of pre-crisis levels, UNICEF said in a statement.

"It points to a severe disruption of services, damage done to water and sanitation systems, and limited access to basic hygiene, all of which puts children at much greater risk of disease," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told the briefing.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Oliver Holmes)

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