x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A regional refugee crisis in the making

But humanitarian crisis of caring for displaced persons will not end when the fighting does.

Opinions on the causes of and solutions to the Syrian conflict will vary, but one element is indisputable: the growing humanitarian crisis needs more serious attention.

The civil war is affecting many lives. Thousands of Syrians are fleeing the country daily to escape death and harsh conditions. Since the crisis began about two years ago, nearly 700,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt, and many others are awaiting registration, according to the latest statistics from the UN's refugee agency. That number is expected to exceed one million before the end of June.

The international community has been working together to address the issue and provide Syrian refugees with basic needs. During the "International Humanitarian dging Conference for Syria'' in Kuwait in January, donor countries pledged more than $1.5 billion (Dh5.5 billion) to aid the Syrian people.

And as The National reported yesterday, the UAE's humanitarian assistance has increased by 54.2 per cent since 2010. During the conference last month, the country promised to donate $300 million. The US has also announced plans to provide additional aid for Syrians. Allocating funds, or attempting to deliver aid, can be difficult, but these challenges are usually surmountable.

The bigger problem for the region is longer-term refugee resettlement, once war ends. In the case of Syria, these refugees need opportunities to live a normal life; they need work to provide food and shelter for their families; their children need to go to schools and get a proper education. Conflict puts many lives on hold, but it is never too soon to consider more permanent solutions for the aftermath. The truth is many of these refugees will simply never be able to return to Syria.

Providing for the permanently displaced is a challenge this region knows well. As The National reported yesterday, thousands of Afghan refugees have been forced to leave Iran for Turkey; they subsist on the generosity of local residents. Iraqis, Palestinians, Kurds, Somalis, Libyans and countless others face similar realities.

Opening a chequebook and sending food and tents is critical in every humanitarian crisis. But the refugee challenge the Middle East will face in the coming years will not end when the fighting does.