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What do Syrians need? Safe havens and an arms embargo

By Oxfam
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Seeking safety in Lebanon, a woman from Syria and her daughter waited for a $40 voucher so they could buy winter clothes. Photo: Sam Tarling/Oxfam

Oxfam calls on the international community to step up its support for the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

While the number of refugees streaming out of Syria has now climbed beyond 3 million, international support for them is flagging—even as weapons continue to flood the country and fuel the deadly conflict that has driven countless families from home.

In a new report,  A Fairer Deal for Syrians, Oxfam is calling for a halt to the transfer of arms and ammunition in Syria and for countries around the world to do their fair share to alleviate the suffering of millions of displaced people, including offering some of them a safe haven.

“This is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the international community’s response is falling far short on every front,” said Andy Baker, head of Oxfam’s Syria crisis response, "In Syria, a steady flow of Kalashnikovs, bombs, and missiles is fueling terrible violations, while aid only trickles through to those who need it.”

Less than half of the $7.7 billion in humanitarian appeals have been funded, and rich countries have agreed to resettle just 37,629 people, while Syria’s neighbors have shouldered the weight of close to 3 million others. The burden is staggering: Lebanon, whose population was less than 4.5 million before the crisis started, is sheltering more than 1.1 million refugees—about 38 percent of all those who have fled.

The flood of families seeking safety has not stopped. The UN is predicting that 690,000 more people will have sought refuge in neighboring countries by the end of this year.

“Neighboring countries are hosting millions of refugees, all in desperate need of shelter, health care, food and water,” said Baker. “Yet there has been no embargo on arms and ammunition and few states have stepped up to offer protection to even a small number of refugees.”

And funding shortfalls don’t bode well for the future of these families, many of whom have few resources of their own.

“Sometimes, I can’t pay the rent,” said one refugee from Homs who has been living in Tripoli, Lebanon with her four children. “I had to sell my asthma medicines in order to pay.”

Last October, the World Food Programme in Lebanon had to cut 30 percent of the beneficiaries from its food aid program. In Jordan, a shortage of funds forced Oxfam to halt cash distributions to refugees living in host communities.

“The international community’s  inadequate approach to the Syrian conflict is failing the millions of people who have fled torture, massacres, and barrel bombs and those facing a terrifying future inside Syria, “said Baker. “They have been abandoned by the international community and are living in desperate conditions in a daily battle to survive.”

Nearly 11 million people—about half of Syria’s population of 22 million—are in need inside the country, and more than 6.4 million of them have been displaced. Since the start of this year, Oxfam has reached nearly half a million refugees in Jordan and Lebanon with clean water or cash and relief supplies. The organization has also reached an estimated one million people in Syria with clean water.

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