The world risks failing the people of Syria as the scale of suffering increases and the humanitarian fall-out from the crisis worsens by the day, warns international agency Oxfam.
With nearly seven million people in need of humanitarian help inside Syria, Oxfam is calling on the UN Security Council to help improve humanitarian access by using its influence to urge the Syrian Government and opposition groups to help ensure aid reaches those most in need. This could mean allowing aid to cross lines of control and cross-border from neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
“Responding to this crisis is now our number one priority,” said Oxfam’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, who is currently visiting Oxfam’s work with refugees on the Syria/Jordan border. “But providing an appropriate humanitarian response is extremely difficult. Restrictions on access mean far too many vulnerable people are not getting the help they desperately need.”
There are growing concerns over the impact of the country’s two-year conflict on water and sanitation facilities, in particular, because of the cumulative effect on people’s health and risk of disease.
In a new briefing paper called “Overtaken By Need”, Oxfam says that three months after US$1.5 billion was pledged for the UN’s six-month appeal, just over half of the money has been received. Refugee numbers have doubled in the first three months of the year and Oxfam warns that similar or even higher levels of funding will be required for the response as the humanitarian catastrophe worsens.
There are 1.3 million Syrian refugees now living in neighbouring countries, but funds for some organisations - including Oxfam - working with these refugees are particularly short.
“The aid effort on the borders has been slow to get off the ground and now needs to be scaled up significantly. A massive increase in humanitarian assistance is required but we fear that instead of being stepped up, the reverse is more likely to happen and aid levels could soon decline,” said Goldring.
In Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, increased numbers of arrivals mean facilities are stretched to the limit. Oxfam has installed toilets, showers and laundry areas to help 20,610 people in part of the camp, but the agency hopes to do more.
There are also concerns that failure to respond fully to the humanitarian emergency could have serious consequences on stability across the wider region. Countries that have generously provided help for Syrian refugees, such as Jordan and Lebanon, are feeling the economic and social strains of hosting such large numbers and need much greater international assistance, the agency said.
There have already been riots over poor living conditions and shortages of aid given in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. In Jordan, Oxfam is looking at how best to help the vulnerable refugees living outside the camp and in host communities over the next few months.
Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local, national and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.