GENEVA — The number of Syrians who have fled into neighboring countries to escape the civil war has reached more than four million, the United Nations said Thursday, and with the fighting dragging into its fifth year the number is still rising.
More than 24,000 people crossed into Turkey to escape fighting in northern Syria in June, pushing the number now sheltering in neighboring countries past four million, increasing the Syrian refugee population by one million in just 10 months, the United Nations refugee agency reported.
International aid agencies say the fighting has driven at least 7.6 million people who remain in the country from their homes.
“This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation,” Antonio Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement. Mr. Guterres, once again, warned that international aid was not keeping pace with the scale of the crisis, and that many refugees were “sinking deeper into poverty.”
“Worsening conditions are driving growing numbers toward Europe and further afield,” Mr. Guterres said, “but the overwhelming majority remain in the region.”
The latest influx into Turkey raised the number of Syrian refugees there to 1.8 million, giving it the biggest refugee population in the world, the United Nations reported. As many as 1.2 million Syrians are now sheltering in Lebanon, more than 629,000 are in Jordan and close to quarter of a million have fled to Iraq.
The United Nations has appealed for $5.5 billion in aid in 2015 to deal with the humanitarian fallout of the Syria crisis. But by the end of June it had received less than a quarter of that amount, the refugee agency said.
“Part of the difficulty is that people have heard this before,” said Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the agency. “I don’t think there’s an awareness of the degree of difficulty we are facing. It really is something of a crunch.”
As Syria’s war drags on, families are forced by deepening poverty and hardship to resort to more desperate survival strategies, including marrying off their young children or forcing them to work, the United Nations said.
Close to half the Syrian refugee children in Jordan had become the sole or joint family breadwinners, the charity Save the Children and Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, said in a report last week. Children were “working primarily for their survival,” Roger Hearn, Save the Children’s regional director for the Middle East and Eurasia, said in a statement accompanying the report. “Whether in Syria or neighboring countries, they are becoming main economic players.”
Donor fatigue and strain on aid budgets after more than four years of conflict in Syria have taken a toll on fund-raising for the international response to emergencies in Yemen, South Sudan and other areas of conflict where humanitarian agencies report they are acutely underfunded.