WASHINGTON (CN) - Turmoil in Syria has Europe struggling to meet the refugees at its door and douse the flames at their feet, but experts say a crisis has beset Syria's neighbors as well.
Since the March 2011 start of the conflict in Syria, more than half of its population is on the move. At least 4 million refugees have fled Syria, and another 8 million remain displaced within the country.
Countries surrounding Syria have borne the brunt of that burden, with refugees now making up 20 percent of the population in Lebanon - the biggest number of refugees per inhabitant in the world.
The group represents 10 percent of Jordan, which has admitted 650,000 refugees, about half the number in Lebanon, Amnesty International reports.
Turkey has taken about 2 million refugees - more than any other country.
A July report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees meanwhile shows that the numbers of refugees crossing the Mediterranean Sea jumped by more than 80 percent in the first half of 2015. Europe saw more than 850,000 refugees and migrants enter by sea in 2015, UNHCR statistics show.
Though that number represents about 1 percent of the EU's total population, UNHCR spokesman Chris Boian said the large number of people entering Europe is evidence of a bigger problem in the region they are fleeing.
"The situation is very dire," Boian said in an interview, noting that it might be too late now to contemplate how much longer Middle Eastern host countries can endure the strain.
Meanwhile, billions spent in aid has proved insufficient to meet the scope of the crisis. Boian said the current UN budget appeal is only 40 percent funded, and the necessary international response is not coalescing.
"The international community has failed to step up and meet the challenges this situation poses," he said.
The problems are numerous
Above all, refugees want to go home, Boian said. When that's not feasible, they prefer to integrate into regional countries. Resettlement to a third country is the least preferred - and least common - option.
He noted that the UN refugee agency for resettlement will consider only the most vulnerable among the refugees - like widows, orphans, single mothers and torture victims.
Mercy Corps, a humanitarian aid organization that operates in Syria and the regional host countries, has been working with the many Syrian refugees going on their fifth year in limbo.
With few opportunities and resources available in host countries, refugees have to decide whether to stay and wait it out, or go someplace else, Mercy Corps spokeswoman Christine Bragale said interview.
But the problems pile up while they wait.
Syrian refugees are exhausting their resources and savings. According to a 2015 vulnerability assessment by UNHCR, Unicef and the World Food Program, nearly 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon recently reported being in debt.