NEW DELHI: Syrians have overtaken Afghans as the second largest refugee population in the world, behind the Palestinians, fleeing to more than a hundred countries to escape the conflict in their country.

According to a UN statement, by mid-2014, Syrians accounted for nearly one in four of the 13 million refugees worldwide being assisted by the UN refugee agency UNHCR -- the highest figure since 1996. About 5 million Palestinian refugees are cared for by a separate agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East or UNRWA.

"As long as the international community continues to fail to find political solutions to existing conflicts and to prevent new ones from starting, we will continue to have to deal with the dramatic humanitarian consequences," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

At least 200,000 people have died and half the Syrian population has been displaced since March 2011 when the conflict began.

Worldwide, about 5.5 million people were forcibly uprooted during the first half of last year. Because of the scale of the crisis in Syria and Palestine, the Middle East and North Africa has become the main region of origin of refugees, overtaking the Asia and Pacific region that held the top spot for more than a decade.

Afghan refugees have fallen to third place with 2.6 million hosted by Pakistan and Iran at mid-last year. Somalis followed at 1.1 million refugees.

To provide context, UNHCR along with the Hamdi Foundation produced a video to provide on the scale of the disaster. The video, titled "What if Manhattan..." asks: How would the world respond if the refugee crisis affecting the children of Syria were happening to the people of Manhattan.

As the video points out, 1.5 million of those affected are children. Children displaced by the war in Syria are the focus of another advocacy video -- produced by Save The Children -- that says, "Just because it isn't happening here, doesn't mean it isn't happening."

The video was released to mark the three-year anniversary of the conflict, in which, to date, 10,000 children have lost their lives and 2.3 million people have become refugees.

In a report titled “A Devastating Toll: The Impact of Three Years of War on the Health of Syria’s Children” by Save The Children, the broken health system in Syria and its consequences -- children dying not just from violence but also from related diseases -- were highlighted.

The report highlights the impact of the Syrian civil war on the country’s children. At least 1.2 million children have fled the conflict, and become refugees in neighbouring countries, while another 4.3 million children in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance. Children have witnessed and experienced extreme violence, and more than 10,000 young lives have been lost as a direct result. The report draws attention to risk to life not just directly posed by violence, but also treatable and preventable diseases. Two hundred thousand Syrians have died of treatable chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma and diabetes – double the number killed by violence, states the report.

The illnesses affecting children in the troubled state include measles, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses, all among the most deadly diseases worldwide for children aged under five. As one measure of how far Syria's health systems have fallen, the report states, in 2010, a total of 26 measles cases were reported in the whole of Syria for the entire year. In the first week of 2014, just in children aged under five, 84 cases were recorded in northern Syria alone.

Sixty percent of hospitals and 38 percent of primary health facilities throughout Syria are damaged or destroyed, making access to healthcare a key area of concern. Nearly half of Syria’s doctors have fled the country. Of the country's ambulances, 93 per cent have been damaged, stolen or destroyed, while many health workers and medical staff have been killed, imprisoned, or have fled the country altogether. The production of drugs has fallen by 70 percent. “This is more than a crisis. It is the threatened collapse of an entire health system, which endangers the lives and well-being of millions of children,” the report states.

The report states that vaccine programmes in Syria have collapsed, with a peacetime coverage rate of 91% falling to 68% just a year after the conflict began; “this rate is likely to be far lower today,” it states. Deadly diseases like measles and meningitis are on the rise. Even polio, which was eradicated across Syria in 1995, is now being carried by up to 80,000 children across the country.

Even despite the scale of the tragedy, groups are still trying to raise awareness and aid.