LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than a million Syrian refugees in Turkey may go without food, medicine and shelter unless there is an increase in international funding, the U.N. refugee agency said on Wednesday.
Turkey was already struggling to cope with the refugees before the attack on the border town of Kobani began, and the inflow has now far exceeded the international support Turkey has received, a UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) spokeswoman said.
More than 180,000 residents of Kobani, a Syrian Kurdish town, have fled to Turkey as fighters of the militant Sunni group Islamic State closed in over the past three weeks.
Carol Batchelor, the UNHCR representative in Turkey, said there was a global responsibility to look after the refugees.
“The basic needs of the Syrian refugees vastly outweigh the support and funding from the international community,” Batchelor told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The majority of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey live outside refugee camps, and Batchelor said this was one of the biggest challenges facing the country.
“While there are 22 refugee camps hosting 220,000 people across Turkey, this means more than a million Syrians are in temporary shelters like mosques, schools and parks,” Batchelor said in a telephone interview from Ankara.
“These are the people who need urgent help, but the longer the conflict goes on, the worse their situation will become.”
Turkey received only 37 percent of the funding it requested as part of the 2014 Syria Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP6), Batchelor said.
RRP6, coordinated by the United Nations, brought together more than 155 donors to help Syrian refugees and the local communities hosting them in Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Batchelor said that while $3.5 billion had been spent on the Syria crisis in the last 3-1/2 years, less than $300 million of international funding had been allocated to Turkey.
Extra funding is needed not only for food, medicine and shelter, but also to provide basic education to child refugees, who account for more than half the Syrian refugees in Turkey, Batchelor said.
The UNHCR has been working closely with the Turkish authorities to help the refugees get shelter, hospital care and translation services, but Batchelor said the burden of looking after Syrian refugees should not fall on Turkey alone.
“Turkish people have been very welcoming and supportive, and international solidarity must be equally forthcoming to ensure this unprecedented number of refugees is looked after.”
The UNHCR protects and supports refugees at the request of a government or the United Nations itself and assists in their voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; editing by Tim Pearce