Oxfam calls for improved humanitarian access to Syria as needs escalate

By mhart

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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, warned international humanitarian organization Oxfam today.

With nearly 7 million people in need of humanitarian help inside Syria, the organisation 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 within Syria as well as borders with neighboring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.  

"The situation is desperate for so many and made even more severe by restrictions on access,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. “As a result, the world risks failing the people of Syria when they most need our help. Restrictions on access violate the rights of vulnerable people who aren’t getting the support that they need.”

Oxfam is using its decades of humanitarian experience in some of the most difficult environments in the world to develop its emergency response to the crisis unfolding in Syria. Concern is growing about the impact of the two-year conflict on water and sanitation facilities, in particular, because of its effect on people’s health and risk of disease.

In addition, Oxfam is calling for the needs of the 1.3 million Syrian refugees now living in neighboring countries to be fully met.

In a new briefing note released today, called Overtaken By Need, Oxfam says that three months after $1.5 billion was pledged for the UN’s six-month appeal, just over half of the money has been received, much of it from Gulf countries. The United States’ contribution has been $385 million. They must continue to support the needs in Syria and the region and encourage other countries to increase their response. 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 in the future as the humanitarian catastrophe worsens.

Funds are particularly short for some organizations - including Oxfam - working with Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

“The aid effort on the borders needs to be scaled up significantly. A massive increase in humanitarian assistance is required. But we fear that instead of being stepped up, aid will soon decline and bring even greater challenges,” said Offenheiser.

In Jordan’s Za’atari 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 organization hopes to do more. 

There are 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 already feeling the economic and social strains of hosting such large numbers and need much greater international assistance.

Lebanon is now hosting more than 440,000 Syrian men, women, and children, which is more than 10 percent of their population. In the United States, that would be the equivalent of 30 million people, more than the population of Texas. 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 exploring how best to help the vulnerable refugees living outside the camp and in host communities over the next few months.

“When refugees arrive in Jordan and Lebanon they are traumatized and fearful for the future. As the needs of Syrians increase, so must the response,” said Offenheiser. “The future will be very bleak for people affected by this crisis unless they get more support.”