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16 JUN 2015

Oxfam to scale up in Syria

Agency supplying water to more than a million people, seeks to expand operations

Oxfam is planning to expand its response to the Syrian crisis as it renews an agreement with the government in Damascus.

The international agency is currently helping to provide water for more than a million people across conflict lines by drilling new wells and repairing old and damaged water networks.

In addition to this, Oxfam now aims to provide toilet and washing facilities, as well as hygiene promotion, to some of the millions of displaced people across the country, many living in unfinished and disused buildings. ‘For us to do our job as humanitarians properly, we need to work more closely with the communities we are helping’, said Mark Goldring, chief executive of Oxfam GB.

Last week a state-of-the-art treatment plant in Salamyah, Hama, was completed to remove naturally present hydrogen sulphide and saline salts in the town’s groundwater supply. By using reverse osmosis, the plant can now provide enough drinking water for 35,000 people from the previously redundant Sinaa well.

Speaking from Damascus after seeing Oxfam’s work and meeting officials in Syria, Goldring said, ‘Meetings with government ministers were constructive and highlighted the need to scale up the response. However, I also made it clear that Oxfam continues to have grave concerns about the impact of the conduct of the conflict on ordinary Syrians, and the need for greater humanitarian access to the people affected.’

In Aleppo, one of the hardest hit areas, Oxfam has supplied water by road, and is working to permanently boost the water supply with a six metre-long 2000KvA generator, which will power the pumps from the main wells and allow improved water to up to a million people.

Oxfam is facing a number of challenges with its work in 10 of the 14 governorates of Syria. The ability to assess needs and monitor programme work is hampered by safety issues and bureaucratic hurdles.

He added, ‘All the humanitarian aid in the world won’t end the crisis in Syria. There needs to be an end to indiscriminate attacks, sieges and concrete movement towards a resolution of the crisis. Only then can the refugees and displaced people I met be able to go home and rebuild their lives.’

Oxfam is currently providing assistance to people both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Jordan. Oxfam’s US$16 million operation in Syria began in November 2013.