Aid agencies give UN Security Council a 'failing grade' on Syria

A group of women walking in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. The camp hosts around 85,000 Syrian refugees half of whom are women.

Three of Canada’s largest humanitarian aid agencies, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision, today released a scathing critique of how the United Nations Security Council has failed to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Syria amid intensifying conflict four years after the start of the crisis.

March 12, 2015

TORONTO/OTTAWA, CANADA (March 12, 2015) – Three of Canada’s largest humanitarian aid agencies, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision, today released a scathing critique of how the United Nations Security Council has failed to alleviate the suffering of civilians in Syria amid intensifying conflict four years after the start of the crisis.

Despite three Security Council resolutions adopted in 2014 that demanded action to secure protection and assistance for civilians, humanitarian access to large parts of Syria has diminished and more people are being killed, displaced and are in need of help than ever before, according to the report Failing Syria, endorsed by 21 humanitarian aid agencies currently working to help Syrian refugees, both inside and outside Syria.

The report presents a score card that reviews the demands made in the Security Council resolutions last year and compares them with the reality on the ground in the affected areas. The grim statistics reveal how the resolutions have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, members of the Security Council and other UN member states, leading to the worst year of the crisis for civilians:

  • People are not protected: Statistics show that 76,000 people were killed in the conflict in 2014, out of a total of at least 220,000 deaths over past four years.
  • Humanitarian aid access has not improved:  Over 4.8 million people now reside in areas defined by the UN as “hard to reach”, that’s an increase of 2.3 million people from 2013.
  • Humanitarian needs have increased: More than 5.6 million children are in need of aid, a 31 per cent increase since 2013.
  • Humanitarian funding has decreased compared to needs: In 2013, 71% of the funds needed to support civilians inside Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries were provided. In 2014, this had declined to 57%.  

“Women have been particularly affected by the violence in Syria and when they flee to neighboring countries”, says Ann Witteveen, Oxfam Canada’s Humanitarian Manager. “Forced and child marriage, rape, and sexual harassment are common occurrences. Women and girls rarely report such incidents and so they occur with impunity”. She adds: “The harsh winter weather has been particularly hard on refugees whose shelter is barely adequate for survival. Many women have been caring for families and living in camps through 4 seasons of ice, snow and storms.”

The report notes that almost 2 million children have now fled Syria and more than twice that number are still in Syria, many under direct threat of violence. Children have lost homes, friends, family members and witnessed or experienced violence. As they wait and hope for peace, many children are missing out on an education.

“Across Syria, children are missing out on their education because we cannot reach them, many schools have been destroyed and parents are afraid to send their children for fear their schools will be attacked,” said Save the Children Canada’s President and CEO, Patricia Erb. “While heroic humanitarian workers risk their lives to give essential aid and services, millions of Syrians remain out of reach, not only because of fighting and a worsening situation but also because of lack of funding and bureaucratic hurdles.”

The humanitarian organizations are calling on UN member states, including the permanent members of the Security Council, to go beyond words and ensure the resolutions are fully implemented.

“After four years of violence, the children and families of Syria need peace. We urge all governments, including Canada, to use their influence to pressure the conflicting parties to enter into inclusive and meaningful peace talks,” says Dave Toycen, president and CEO of World Vision Canada. “In the meantime, the urgent and growing humanitarian needs in the Syria crisis require continued financial aid, and as a proven generous donor, we hope that Canada will be a champion for Syria within the international community”.  

A copy of the report is available for download here: oxfam.ca/failing-syria

For interviews regarding the report, media should contact the following:

Melanie Gallant
Media Relations, Oxfam Canada
Phone: (613) 240-3047
E-mail: Melanie.Gallant@oxfam.ca

Kirsten Walkom
National Senior Manager, Save the Children Canada
Phone: (647) 631-3862
E-mail: kwalkom@savethechildren.ca

Robert Neufeld
Manager, Emergency Response Communications, World Vision Canada
Phone: 647-622-2045
E-mail: robert_neufeld@worldvision.ca

Learn more:

Building hope out of shattered lives:

Syria: A stain on the conscience of the world

Report: Failing Syria: Assessing the Impact of UN Security Resolutions

Syria Refugee Crisis: oxfam.ca/syria

Approximately 12.2 million people are in need in Syria. Oxfam has reached over 1.5 million people affected by the Syria crisis, across Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Women and children have been particularly affected by the violence.

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