After military strikes in Syria, our actions must match our words

By Oxfam
Aleppo’s deep history as one of the oldest continuously occupied cities in the world can be traced back to Egyptian texts from 20th century BC. But today, after more than five years of war in Syria, much of the city is now uninhabitable and many of its people, which once numbered an estimated 2.3 million, have fled for safety to neighboring countries and beyond. Photo: Pablo Tosco

Syrian families deserve peace, safety, and the chance to rebuild their lives - not more destruction.

On Friday evening, the Trump Administration launched new military attacks on Syria in coordination with Britain and France in response to the reported use of chemical weapons against civilian populations by the Syrian Armed Forces. Use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international law. Choosing military force to deter their use risks escalating the crisis, which puts more civilian lives at risk in Syria and beyond. Those who commit war crimes, including using chemical weapons, must be held accountable and their victims deserve justice, but these military strikes are unlikely to achieve either.

“World leaders must work together to end the suffering of Syria’s civilians including through a national ceasefire and prioritizing peace talks over military solutions,” said Moutaz Adham, Country Director for Oxfam in Syria. “Increased military intervention could damage the prospects for internationally-brokered peace talks, escalate the violence, and threaten regional stability. All parties to the conflict and their international supporters must strictly adhere to international humanitarian law, and UN Security Council Members in particular must work together to fulfill their responsibilities to protect civilians and international peace and security.”

Families deserve peace

Abu left the Syrian city of Daraa in 2013 and settled in Za'atari refugee camp. He now owns a falafel and bread shop in the Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, which hosts 79,000 refugees, mostly women and children. Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

Syrian families deserve peace, safety, and the chance to rebuild their lives - not more destruction. The international community must redouble its efforts to reach peace and ensure Syrian families who remain in the country and who are living as refugees have access to the aid and safety they so clearly need. Although world leaders, including the Trump administration, have been quick to condemn attacks on Syrian civilians, their words ring hollow, as many of those same nations continue their discriminatory and dangerous policy of keeping out Syrian refugees. Over the past year, the administration has implemented new vetting procedures and endless bureaucratic red tape as part of a "backdoor" ban that is undermining the refugee resettlement program and the ability of Syrian refugees to reach safety in the US

“The ongoing bloodshed and war crimes in Syria are a stark reminder that Syrian civilians need our support now more than ever,” said Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead. “Yet the Trump Administration still lacks a coherent strategy to actually bring an end to the conflict, and instead has sought to slash humanitarian aid and continue its discriminatory and dangerous policy of keeping out Syrian refugees, only 11 of whom have been welcomed in the US this year,” said Gottschalk.

If we truly care about protecting the people of Syria, our actions must match our words. Oxfam calls on the US to work with the rest of the UN Security Council to fully investigate the attacks and to offer safe haven to Syria’s civilians and others in harm’s way by resuming its refugee resettlement program at full capacity.

Oxfam’s work in Syria

Mariam, with an Oxfam site engineer who is assessing the situation of a well after being rehabilitated by Oxfam. Aleppo residents, who face water cuts, often have to walk far to fetch safe drinking water, a task that is mainly carried by women and children. Mariam is now able to fetch water from the newly-rehabilitated well, which is about 15 minutes away from home. Oxfam/SARC

Over the past year, Oxfam estimates it has helped more than two million people in Syria and in neighboring Jordan and Lebanon.

In Syria, Oxfam is focusing on providing clean water by repairing or installing water pipes, repairing wells, installing water tanks in homes and schools, providing electricity to power the water network. We are also educating school children and others on good hygiene practices to prevent disease. We have started working with a local NGO to distribute emergency bread provisions and warm weather clothing in Deir Ez-Zor.

In neighboring Jordan and Lebanon, Oxfam is supporting Syrian refugees and host communities with a focus on providing clean drinking water, safe hygiene facilities and education, and distributing cash so families can meet their own urgent needs through local markets. We are also helping families get the information they need about their legal and human rights, access improved work opportunities, and connect them to medical, legal, and support services.  

With your support Oxfam can continue to provide assistance to families in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and other places where they are seeking shelter.


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