UN appeals for $490M to aid Syrian refugees

The United Nations on Thursday increased its funding appeal for Syrians who have fled the conflict in their country to almost $490 million, warning that the number of refugees could rise to over 700,000 by the end of the year.

So far donors have given $141.5 million toward humanitarian assistance for the estimated 294,000 Syrians who have fled abroad, the U.N. refugee agency and 51 other aid groups said in a joint appeal.

"We only have one-third of the funding we need to respond," said Panos Moumtzis, Syria coordinator for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. "We are running out of time and we need to respond."

Aid groups had previously estimated that 100,000 Syrians would have crossed into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey by the end of 2012.

But with no end in sight to the 18-month conflict and 2,000 to 3,000 Syrians crossing daily into neighboring countries, humanitarian groups are preparing to help up to 710,000 by year end, said Moumtzis. This includes Syrians who have already fled abroad but have yet to come forward to register as refugees.

Almost 95,000 Syrians have found refuge in Jordan, followed by almost 88,000 in Turkey and 78,000 in Lebanon. Some 33,000 Syrians have fled to Iraq, which recently reopened its border crossing at al-Qaim.