Wednesday August 20, 2014




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UN seeks more aid for Syria as refugees and displaced expected to triple

OTTAWA - The United Nations is predicting three times as many Syrians will be forced to flee their country in the coming year, and is asking Canada and the world to donate more towards the escalating humanitarian catastrophe.

Muhannad Hadi, the UN World Food Program's emergency co-ordinator in Syria, was in Ottawa on Friday to deliver that message to the Canadian government, and to update officials on a crisis he says has no end in sight.

Hadi said the ranks of Syria's one million refugees, currently in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, could reach three million by the end of the year.

As for the estimated 2.5 million Syrians currently displaced within the country's borders, Hadi says the WFP is predicting that number to climb to six million.

He said Canada has certainly played its part in contributing $48 million towards the crisis. But if donors across the globe Canada included do not offer more financial assistance, Syrian refugees and internally displaced people will simply go hungry.

"If we don't deliver food, people have no options. It's over. It's not that they can go buy on (a) credit card," Hadi told The Canadian Press in an interview Friday.

"They can't. If we don't give food, women will not cook for their children. Mothers will see their children go to bed hungry. That's it."

Every Monday morning, said Hadi, the WFP faces a $19-million tab to feed Syrians inside and outside the country for the coming week. The total bill will rise to more than $100 million by the end of June.

"We're reaching out to everyone. We're reaching out to governments, to the private sector. We're not sparing any efforts."

Hadi outlined the dire situation in a downtown Ottawa hotel before heading off to meetings at the Canadian International Development Agency and elsewhere.

Hadi, based in Jordan, was in Washington earlier in the week delivering the same message.

An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in the two-year conflict.

WFP officials say Canada has already contributed generously, and that its early response was critical in the early stages of the refugee crisis.

In 2012, Canada contributed $3.5 million to WFP operations inside Syria and $4 million to help Syrians in neighbouring countries.

Canada has just confirmed an additional of $6.5 million for Syria and another $4 million to assist regional efforts, say UN officials.

"We're grateful to the Canadian people and the Canadian government for all the support," said Hadi. "We also count on Canada and the rest of the world to continue supporting us so we can feed the people inside Syria."

Kevin McCort, the president of CARE Canada, recently returned from Jordan, where he said the strain on the country's health in education system is growing dire with the influx of refugees.

He said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees would also be putting out a call for support for more funds.

"I'm always a fan of Canada when they support UNHCR and WFP."

The UN Children's Fund said Friday that the number of refugees in Jordan alone was predicted to more than double to 1.2 million by the years end.

Jordan's population is six million.

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited Jordan and said Canada would provide additional $13.1 million to deal with the refugee crisis in the country.

The federal NDP called on the government to do more Friday to help bring relatives of Syrian Canadians out of the region.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar launched a petition to pressure Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to do more to bring Syrians to Canada.

"It's shameful that Jason Kenney refuses to even discuss family reunification options for Syrian-Canadians," Dewar said.

"We are launching this campaign today so that Canadians press the Conservatives to do the right thing and help reunite these Canadian families with their relatives in Syrian refugee camps."

Kenney has said the government has concerns about fast-tracking Syrians into Canada because extremist radicals may be among the displaced people.

Baird has been discussing the Syrian crisis throughout the week on travels in the region that have also taken him to Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain and Cypress.



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