Syria & the regional refugee crisis

Children in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Image by Caroline Gluck/Oxfam.

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Fighting in Syria has claimed more than 250,000 lives and triggered a massive exodus. More than 4.8 million people have fled Syria, joined by countless others, most of whom are escaping conflict. We are providing lifesaving aid to displaced people in the Middle East, and we’re helping families meet some of their basic needs as they travel beyond the region to seek safety.

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Stories & updates

How we're responding

Updated March 2016

When the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East and North Africa in 2011, Syrian citizens called on their government for democratic reforms. But when peaceful demonstrators were met with force, the situation became a full-scale conflict.

The country has since been ravaged by armed conflict between the Syrian army and pro-government paramilitary forces and an array of rebel groups. More than 250,000 people have died since March 2011. Inside the country, the number of people in need is now estimated at 13.5 million—more than half of Syria’s total population of 22 million. More than 4.8 million people, many of them children, have fled to neighboring countries.

Syria’s neighbors are now bearing the brunt of that exodus. In Lebanon alone, more than one million people have sought safety: one in every five people in the country is now a refugee from Syria and refugees now make up about 25 percent of the country’s population. Oxfam is calling for governments around the world to step up and provide increased resettlement options for refugees.

Adding to the pressures in the region is fighting in central and northern Iraq as well as conflict in countries such as Yemen, which has displaced many more families.

Camps and settlements

In Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, we are helping more than 1.5 million people with life-saving clean water, sanitation, and vital support for families who have lost everything.

In many cases in Jordan and Lebanon, our support has included cash and relief supplies, such as blankets and stoves in winter and vouchers for hygiene supplies in summer. We are also helping families get the information they need about their rights and connecting them to special services such as legal aid.

In addition, we have built blocks of bathing stalls and toilets for families living in refugee camps or in informal settlements. We are also developing piped water networks for the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan and for host communities in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.

Inside Syria, we are focusing on rehabilitating the water infrastructure, including repairing wells, and estimate that we are reaching at least 1.5 million people. So far, we have helped to complete 48 projects and are implementing another 14. We also plan to help with waste water disposal and solid waste management, as well as work on public health promotion and supporting livelihoods.

In Iraq, where the frontline with the Islamic State and other armed groups continues to move, our team is responding to the needs of newly displaced people and those working to recover from the trauma of conflict. Our support has included clean water and sanitation services, hygiene promotion, and assistance with people’s livelihoods and food needs.

Families on the move

As more refugees make their way into Europe, Oxfam has set up programs in Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia to help people meet some of their basic needs. Our goal is to remain flexible so we can respond as families alter the routes they take on their journeys to safety. In Serbia, for instance, we have been distributing socks, underwear, and blankets, as well as providing basic information migrants need to know for safe passage.

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