Funds for United Nations efforts to assist refugees from the fighting in Syria are running dangerously low, according to officials at the organization.
“The needs are rising exponentially and we are broke,” said Marixie Mercado, a UNICEF spokeswoman, at a conference in Geneva on Friday.
“By the end of 2013, we estimate there will be 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Jordan—equivalent to about one-fifth of Jordan’s population,“ she added.
The number of Syrian refugees has consistently exceeded the expectations of aid workers and officials.
The organization estimates that approximately 1.25 million Syrians have fled the country to date, with the majority seeking refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. About three-quarters of the refugees are women and children.
“So far, very little has come in,” Ms. Mercado told reporters. “We are doing a lot, we are doing an enormous amount, but the needs are just extraordinary, and they are growing every day.”
If new funds do not become available, the UN would no longer be able to supply fresh water to the huge refugee camp at Za’atari in Jordan, she added. The camp, which has recently been the scene of outbreaks of rioting, currently houses more than 100,000 people in a facility designed for 60,000.
Ms. Mercado also said that the UN will be unable to supply two new camps under construction nearby if it does not receive more funding.
UNICEF claims that it has received less than 20 percent of the USD 57 million it estimates is needed to fund its assistance programs in Jordan this year.
The situation in Jordan, while acute, is part of a wider problem, as international assistance for Syrian refugees is facing an overall funding shortage.
According to figures released by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), it has only received one-third of the USD 500 million it requires for the first half of 2013, with the US, EU and Japan among the biggest donors.
Filippo Grandi, the head of another UN agency, the Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA), said on Thursday that the flow of refugees was becoming “unmanageable and dangerous.”
He told the New York Times that the situation was quickly approaching the point at which the UN would be completely overwhelmed, saying: “This is the type of crisis that humanitarian agencies at some point cannot handle any more.”