BERLIN (AP) — The number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries could more than double to 3.5 million by the end of the year, the United Nations said Friday as the global body launched its biggest humanitarian appeal ever.
The U.N. asked donor countries for $5.2 billion to help alleviate the suffering of millions of people inside and outside Syria who are struggling with the effects of a conflict that has dragged on for more than two years.
"We expect that we might reach 3.5 million refugees by the end of the year," U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterrestold a news conference in Geneva. Around 1.6 million people have already sought refuge in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Another 7,000 refugees are crossing the border each day, he said.
"If the fighting doesn't stop, we risk an explosion in the Middle East for which the international community is simply not prepared," Guterres said, noting that Lebanon and Jordan in particular have borne the financial brunt of hosting about 500,000 Syrian refugees each.
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