International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Syrian refugees face immense challenges as numbers surge [Press Release]

Urgent aid required to meet needs of tens of thousands in Jordan

03 Aug 2012 - As violence sharply escalates in the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Damascus, Syrian refugees are pouring into neighboring countries, overwhelming limited resources already stretched to the maximum. 

As many as 150,000 refugees have found refuge in Jordan since the start of the conflict 17 months ago, with an average of 700 people crossing the desert border every night, 75% of them women and children. That’s up from about 30 new arrivals on any given night just two months ago. Syrian refugees are also streaming into Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq by the thousands. 
“We’re in a crisis situation,” warns Luan Meraku, who oversees the International Rescue Committee’s humanitarian aid programs in Jordan. “In Jordan, the influx has strained resources, and at times goodwill.  There are urgent shelter, food, water, sanitation and medical needs that are worsening by the day as more refugees arrive.”
These days, most refugees cross with absolutely nothing and have little if any means to pay for basic essentials.  With housing options in border cities virtually exhausted and increasing tension and overcrowding at transit centers, the Jordanian government opened its first tented refugee camp outside the northern city of Mafraq this week.  The UN will manage the Zaatri Camp, which is currently capable of hosting 10,000 refugees, but can be expanded to house more than 100,000. 
Meraku says the mental and physical condition of the new arrivals has also declined:  “We’re seeing a highly traumatized population that’s fled horrific levels of violence and loss,” he says.
Refugees describe incidents of targeted attacks that led them to flee, as well as dangerous journeys to the border during which they were shot at. There are also reports of family members being forcibly separated and civilians being robbed of their belongings and sexually assaulted.
In two recent IRC assessments conducted in Jordan, Syrian women and girls reported widespread sexual assault by armed men in Syria and identified the threat of rape and kidnapping as the main reason they left. Many of the women fled alone with their children, which continues to present risks for them as refugees.  Early and coerced marriage of Syrian girls has become a worrying trend in Jordan as households buckle under financial distress.  Female refugees, many of whom are unregistered, say they’ve had no access to psychosocial support, medical care or other services.
National and international humanitarian organizations are doing what they can to address the growing needs.  The IRC is running two health care clinics in the border cities of Ramtha and Mafraq to relieve overburdened local health services. IRC doctors and nurses in each center treat some 60 patients daily and are planning to expand programs to boost psychosocial assistance and counseling for women and girls.  Together with local partners, IRC teams are also distributing needed supplies to new arrivals, such as hygiene items, blankets and sleeping mats.
Additionally, the IRC has deployed members of its Emergency Response Team to Lebanon.  The team is assessing critical needs of Syrian refugee women and girls with a view toward launching targeted humanitarian aid programs there. 
With an estimated one million Syrians internally displaced by the conflict and having little or no access to humanitarian relief, the IRC urges continued negotiations and pressure toward ending the violence and ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches Syrians inside the country.  

The IRC calls on donors to urgently meet the United Nations appeal for $193 million to respond to the crisis and support countries hosting refugees, to ensure the funding is delivered through diversified channels, bilaterally as well as through local and international organizations, and to prioritize the aid and protection of women and girls.

The IRC also urges regional governments to keep borders open to refugee flows and ensure that new camps set up to cope with refugee influxes meet international standards.  

Media Contacts

Ned Colt (Amman)

Melissa Winkler (New York) 
+1 212-551 0972 / +1 646 734 0305

Stefanie Pfeil (London) 
+44 207 692 2735
About the International Rescue Committee: A global leader in humanitarian assistance for nearly 80 years, the IRC works in more than 40 countries offering help and hope to refugees and others uprooted by disaster, conflict and oppression. During crises, IRC teams provide health care, shelter, and clean water, sanitation, learning programs for children and special aid for women. As emergencies subside, the IRC stays to revive livelihoods and help shattered communities recover and rebuild. The IRC also helps resettle refugees given sanctuary in the United States. A tireless advocate for the most vulnerable, the IRC is committed to restoring hope, dignity and opportunity. Visit for more information.