More than four million Syrians have fled the country since conflict erupted there in 2011, the United Nations said Thursday, making it the worst refugee crisis in almost 25 years.
The total number has now reached 4,013,000 people after still more left their homeland as a result of fresh fighting, and after Turkey updated its statistics, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said, adding that 7.6 million others have been displaced inside Syria.
"This is the biggest refugee population from a single conflict in a generation. It is a population that needs the support of the world but is instead living in dire conditions and sinking deeper into poverty," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
Most fled to neighbouring countries, including Turkey, which is now home to around 1.8 million Syrian refugees, or around 45 percent of the total. Lebanon took in 1.17 million, more than a quarter of its pre-war population, and Jordan 629,128.
Numbers are still accelerating, and the 3 million mark passed just 10 months ago. aIn June alone, more than 24,000 people crossed into Turkey from northern Syria, many to escape fighting in Tal Abyad, where Kurdish fighters clashed with Islamic State militants. UNHCR projects that if current trends continue around 4.27 million will have fled Syria by the end of the year.
"Worsening conditions are driving growing numbers towards Europe and further afield, but the overwhelming majority remain in the region," Guterres said. "We cannot afford to let them and the communities hosting them slide further into desperation."
UNHCR added that an estimated $5.5 billion in humanitarian and development funding is needed in 2015 to help deal with the crisis, but that as of late June, only 24 percent of this sum had actually been received.