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9 million now displaced by Syria’s civil war, U.N. says

The United Nation’s top humanitarian field operations official said Friday that more than 9 million Syrians have been displaced by the country’s civil war _ 6.5 million of whom are still inside Syria, while 2.7 million have fled to nearby countries.

John Ging, the director of operations at the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warned that those numbers are like to grow.

“Month-after-month, it’s 5,000 people that are being killed in this crisis. Hundreds of thousands have been injured in this crisis, and again with the intensification of the conflict, these numbers are growing all the time, “ he said.

Still, the international community is not stepping forward to provide assistance. He said the U.N.’s humanitarian appeal is only 20 percent funded and that the U.N. had collected only about a quarter of the money it needs to assist refugees.

Ging said about 4.1 million Syrians are receiving food assistance each month, but that the program has “very big shortfalls between the needs and the response.” An estimated 3.5 million people in need of aid aren’t receiving it, he said, because they live in areas where fighting prevents aid from being delivered.

Another official, Elizabeth Hoff, the World Health Organization’s representative in Damascus, said Syrians also are finding health care difficult to obtain. Fifty percent of hospitals are out of service and 70 percent have been damaged, she said.

Those that are functioning, she said, are overcrowded not just with civilians, but soldiers and rebels in need of medical treatment.

The U.N. delivered more than 4 million medical treatments in the first four months of this year, she said, but has been largely unable to reach rebel-controlled areas.

“We’re at the limit, yet we cannot reach millions,” Ging said.

Ging accused the Syrian government of specifically blocking supplies that might be used to treat wounded rebels. “This is an abomination,” he said. “Anything that could be used to treat the war wounded is being removed from the medical convoys.”

Robert Mardini, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s director of operations, said there is no way aid organizations can match the speed with which the conditions are deteriorating.

“Basic services and vital infrastructure are in a state of near collapse and the economy is at a standstill,” he said. “The bleak reality is that needs are growing at a much faster pace than the humanitarian aid being provided on the ground.”