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Syrian refugee crisis hits 2 million mark, says UN

The number of Syrians driven out of their homeland by the ongoing bloody civil war has passed the 2 million mark, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) sai
Syria Refugees Number 2 Million - Emma Margolin - 09/02/2013
Syrian-Kurdish refugee families queue to get food at the Quru Gusik refugee camp, 20 kilometres east of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region...

The number of Syrians driven out of their homeland by the ongoing bloody civil war has passed the 2 million mark, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said Tuesday.

"Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs," said UNHCR. "This trend is nothing less than alarming, representing a jump of almost 1.8 million people in 12 months.”

Less than two weeks ago, UNHCR said it had registered its one millionth child refugee fleeing from Syria, and that the staggering exodus rate had seen a massive spike in the last year. The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warned then that the embattled country was facing a “lost generation” in an interview with NBC News. Today, he’s calling the situation in Syria "a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history."

"The only solace is the humanity shown by the neighboring countries in welcoming and saving the lives of so many refugees," added Guterres, in Tuesday's statement.

Syrians have fled primarily to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt, but a growing number have arrived in North Africa and Europe. An April UNHCR report found health services becoming increasingly overstretched in neighboring countries hosting Syrian refugees. With an average of almost 5,000 people fleeing from Syria per day, according to UN estimates, the strain on neighboring countries could only have gotten worse since the April report was published.

The UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations are calling for more support from the international community. The United States has given UNICEF $56 million since the beginning of 2013, but it has appealed for $400 million more, according to a regional spokesperson for the UN's Children's Fund. Ministers from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey will meet in Geneva Wednesday with UNHCR in an effort to attract more international aid.

In addition to the 2 million who have left the country altogether, another 4.25 million people are internally displaced inside Syria, according to the UN. Syrians are now forcibly displaced more than people from any other country, said UNHCR.

These figures come as the Obama administration has asked Congress to approve a limited military strike in response to what it describes as indisputable evidence that the Syrian regime used sarin gas against civilians on Aug. 21, killing more than 1,400. Secretary of State John Kerry will be joined Tuesday by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and the chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Martin Dempsey, to advocate for U.S. military action in Syria before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.