This week, my colleagues registered the one millionth Syrian refugee. A milestone in human tragedy. And a figure that should, after two years of death and destruction, stir the level of political action needed to put an end to this war before more lives are lost, more people forced to flee and the conflict destabilises the region.

The exodus from Syria has accelerated dramatically in recent weeks. In early December, some 20 months after the crisis began, refugee figures stood at 500,000. It has only taken three months for that number to double. As violence in Syria spirals out of control, more than 7,000 people arrive in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq every single day. Others make their way to Egypt and Europe. Three quarters of the refugees are women and children.

They have lost all they owned, and family members they loved. But at least in exile they are safe and cared for. The violent Syria they left behind is causing suffering on an unimaginable scale. At least two million people have sought precarious safety in other parts of the country. They live in abandoned buildings and makeshift camps, until they are forced to pack up again as the fighting spreads. As the devastation gets worse, it becomes more difficult, even life threatening, to access food, water or medicines.

Syria’s children are the worst affected. The horrors they have witnessed are unspeakable, and many boys and girls are traumatised for life. We are increasingly receiving reports of children being deliberately targeted, abused, beaten, raped and killed. Women also tell harrowing stories of sexual violence, a pattern that indicates rape is being used as a weapon of war.

More and more Syrians see no other option than to become refugees. To reach safety, they literally have to run for their lives - many of them are shot at on their way to the border.

For those who manage to get out, the conditions in exile are difficult. Families squeeze into shared rooms in cities, or live in tents and containers in sprawling, overcrowded camps. They have had to brave one of the most severe winters in many years.

They are unable to support themselves and are entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance from host governments, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and partner organisations.

But refugees arrive at a much faster pace than the funds we need to help them. Of the generous amounts promised at a donor conference in Kuwait a month ago, aid agencies have received little so far. It is evident that the humanitarian budgets of traditional donors are severely constrained. With no political solution in sight, governments and parliaments should consider approving special additional funds for the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people on top of their normal humanitarian aid budgets. If that doesn’t happen, those needs could only be met by traditional aid budgets, leaving the tragic situations of Somalis, Afghans, Congolese, Malians, Rohingyas and many other victims unattended to. The Syrian conflict is just one part of the unprecedented multiplication of crises in today’s world.

Meanwhile, neighbouring countries offering refuge to Syrians are reeling with the impact of this massive influx. Their capacities are stretched to the breaking point.

Lebanon’s population has increased by a staggering 10 per cent. In Jordan, the mounting numbers are putting enormous pressure on limited energy and water resources, and on social services and infrastructure. Turkey has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to erect 17 refugee camps and plans to build more as long as Syrians continue to flee.

Everywhere in the region, food, fuel and rental prices are rising quickly, with a direct impact on local economies. These countries should not only be congratulated for keeping their borders open, but financially supported as well. Regional stability is at stake.

The Syria crisis would be an enormous disaster anywhere in the world. But this conflict is taking place in a region so fragile that it risks being destabilised beyond control if the fighting spills across borders.

What happens in Syria has a direct impact on the rising sectarian violence in Iraq. There are warnings of a potential civil war if the Syria conflict continues. Lebanon is increasingly threatened by instability, with security incidents unsettling its borders. Jordan, long a pillar of stability in the Middle East, is facing a dramatic economic situation that could trigger social unrest. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is looming nearby, and the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most sensitive places, is just around the corner.

If the world does not act now, we might soon face an explosion that no international response could manage. This must not be allowed. The Syrian crisis is now at a tipping point. Humanitarian organisations like mine can save lives and ease suffering, but it is up to those who have political responsibilities to stop this war before it is too late.                    –Khaleej Times