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29 AUG 2014

Oxfam calls on Western governments to open their doors as number of registered Syrian refugees reaches 3 million

Western and other rich countries should step up their efforts to resettle Syrian refugees, Oxfam said today after the number registered with UNHCR reached 3 million.

Urgent action is necessary in order to respond to a growing regional crisis caused by increasing displacement, insufficient aid and over-burdened infrastructure in neighbouring countries, Oxfam added.

Approximately 5,000 refugees have been resettled in countries beyond Syria’s neighbours through the UN: that’s only 0.16% of the refugee population. Meanwhile the UN humanitarian appeal for the refugee response is still woefully underfunded, with less than half the money it needs.  Though neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey have been very generous in helping refugees to date, their generosity is wearing thin as often poor host communities bear the brunt of Syria’s ongoing crisis. The international community must play its part in offering refugees protection, and supporting neighbouring countries so they can keep their borders open to people fleeing the conflict.

Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, said: “As the number of refugees grows, aid is proving insufficient and neighbouring countries are stretched to breaking point. It is shocking that over three years into a crisis which shows no sign of abating, rich countries have resettled a mere 5,000 of the 3 million registered refugees who are often struggling to survive from one day to the next. ”

"The international community should step up its support and work with the UN to quickly offer a life-line to some of the most vulnerable families by giving them a new home. The refugees we work with are desperate to return to rebuild their lives in Syria, but while a political solution to the crisis remains elusive, there is sadly no way that they can.”

Facing significant funding shortfalls, humanitarian agencies have already had to cut programmes and target their assistance, leaving refugees to go without. In Jordan, Oxfam has had to halt cash payments that were helping 6,500 refugees in host communities. In June 2014, the UN was forced to downscale the funding target aimed at refugees from US $4.2 to $3.74 billion due to a lack of available funds from donors.

In Jordan, the settlement of thousands of Syrian refugees in a very water-scarce area is putting huge pressure on available water resources. Refugees who Oxfam is working with in Zaatari camp have to make do with just over 35 litres per person per day for essential drinking and cleaning – a dramatic drop from the 70-145 litres they were used to back home in Syria.

With soaring summer temperatures, the threat of health risks looms large as Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies battle to meet basic needs, while working to create a piped water network that will provide Zaatari camp residents with a more sustainable water source. 

About Oxfam

Oxfam is a worldwide development organisation that mobilises the power of people against poverty.