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Syria conflict causing 'staggering' humanitarian crisis
From: BBC          Published On: January 14, 2013, 05:29 GMT
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Syria conflict causing 'staggering' humanitarian crisis

The Middle East faces a "staggering" humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria, an aid agency says.

With more then 600,000 Syrians having fled the country, the International Rescue Committee is calling on the outside world to step up its response.

The IRC describes the level of rape and sexual violence occurring in the conflict as "horrific".

The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the uprising, which began in March 2011.

In addition to those who have left the country, at least 2m people are thought be internally displaced within Syria.
'Drastically insufficient'

The IRC says many refugees are citing rape as the main reason they left Syria and describes it as a major feature of the war. It is often committed in front of family members, the agency says.

The group criticises what is says is an "alarming" lack of medical and psychological support for survivors.

The group describes international aid as "drastically insufficient" for a "steadily worsening" crisis.

It speaks of whole neighbourhoods reduced to rubble and of displaced people moving from one village to another to escape a moving frontline.

In recent days the region has been hit by the worst winter storms in twenty years, making conditions for refugees even more desperate.

Among one group of Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon's Bekaa valley, not a single child was dressed for winter, the BBC's Lyse Doucet reports.

All were shivering, and coughing in the cold, with some even going without shoes, our correspondent says.

Last week, a UN agency warned that 1m Syrians are going hungry.

The World Food Program (WFP) said it is helping 1.5 million Syrians, but continued fighting and an inability to use the port of Tartus to deliver food mean many people are not receiving aid.

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