The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees will surpass a record 3 million Friday, and a further 6.5 million are believed to be displaced within the war-torn nation, the U.N. refugee agency said.
That means almost half of all Syrians have been forced to leave their homes amid the country’s roughly three-year civil war, and one in eight has fled across the border, the agency said.
The number is the largest from a single crisis in the agency’s 64-year history.
“The Syrian crisis has become the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era, yet the world is failing to meet the needs of refugees and the countries hosting them,” Antonio Guterres, the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said in a news release Friday.
The data released Friday come a week after the U.N. said it had documented the killings of 191,369 men, women and children in Syria from March 2011, when an uprising began, to the end of April this year.
The uprising began with mostly peaceful protests against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Daraa province. Syria responded with a ferocious crackdown against demonstrators and has consistently said it is battling armed terrorist groups as it targeted anti-government protesters.
The war, pitting an Alawite Muslim-dominated regime facing a largely Sunni Muslim insurgency, has torn the country apart. Numerous factions, some of them Islamist, oppose the government, and one of them — ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — has captured large swaths of northern and eastern Syria for what it says is its new Islamic caliphate.
Refugees “are arriving in a shocking state, exhausted, scared and with their savings depleted,” the U.N.’s refugee agency said. “Most have been on the run for a year or more, fleeing from village to village before taking the final decision to leave.”
Most of the refugees are in countries neighboring Syria, including Lebanon (1.14 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (815,000). Governments estimate that hundreds of thousands more are in their countries but unregistered, putting a strain on their economies, the U.N. said.
Donors have given more than $4.1 billion to help, but more than $2 billion more is needed by the end of 2014, including to help more than 2.4 million people prepare for the winter, the U.N. said.
More than 80% of the refugees are struggling to make a living in communities outside of camps, and more than a third are living in substandard shelters, the U.N. said.
“The response to the Syrian crisis has been generous, but the bitter truth is that it falls far short of what’s needed,” Guterres said.