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'Full-on crisis': 5,000 refugees flee Syria daily, UN says

The strain on Syria's neighbor Jordan is growing as thousands of refugees fleeing worsening violence flood across the border every day. NBC News' Stephanie Gosk reports.

Updated at 10:25 a.m. ET: About 5,000 refugees are fleeing Syria each day, seeking safety in neighboring countries, the United Nations refugee agency said Friday.

"This is a full-on crisis," Adrian Edwards, spokesman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told a news briefing in Geneva. "There was a huge increase in January alone; we're talking about a 25 percent increase in registered refugee numbers over a single month."

Since the conflict began two years ago, more than 787,000 Syrians have registered as refugees or are awaiting processing in the region, mainly in Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Turkey, he said.

In Syria, water shortages are worsening and supplies are sometimes contaminated, putting children at an increased risk of diseases, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday.

The agency's first nationwide assessment revealed that water supplies in areas affected by the conflict are one-third of pre-crisis levels, UNICEF said in a statement.

"It points to a severe disruption of services, damage done to water and sanitation systems, and limited access to basic hygiene, all of which puts children at much greater risk of disease," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told the briefing.

Meanwhile in Damascus, President Bashar Assad's forces tried Friday to retake sections of a ring road around the capital that rebel forces had captured over the past two days. Fighter jets fired rockets around Jobar, Qaboun and Barzeh districts, sources told Reuters. 

Activists said 46 people were killed on Thursday, mostly from army shelling. There were no immediate reports of casualties on Friday. More than 60,000 people have died in the civil war, according to U.N. figures.

Fawaz Tello, a veteran opposition campaigner well connected with rebels in Damascus, said the operation was part of a slow encroachment by rebels on the capital.

"Even if the rebels withdraw from the ring road, it will become, like other parts of the capital, too dangerous for the regime to use it," said Tello, speaking from Berlin.

"We are witnessing a 'two steps forward, one step back' rebel strategy. It is a long way before we can say Assad has become besieged in Damascus, but when another main road is rendered useless for him the noose tightens and his control further erodes." 


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