Oxfam calls for improved humanitarian access to Syria as needs escalate

April 30, 2013
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Refugee numbers in neighbouring countries steadily climb

The world risks failing the people of Syria as the scale of suffering increases and the humanitarian fallout from the crisis worsen by the day, aid agency Oxfam is warning.

With nearly 7 million people in need of humanitarian help inside Syria, the organization is calling on the United Nations Security Council to use its influence on the Syrian Government and opposition groups to help improve access for humanitarian aid delivery. Aid must be allowed to cross lines of control and cross borders from neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

In a briefing paper 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. Refugee numbers have doubled in the first three months of the year and Oxfam warns that similar or even more funds will be required in the future as the humanitarian catastrophe worsens.

“Some governments and humanitarian agencies have done all that they could,” the report says. “Many individuals have acted with enormous courage and commitment to get aid to Syrians in need. But by and large the world has sat back and watched Syryia's conflict and humanitarian crisis escalate out of all proportion to what could have been expected two years ago. Now is the time to escalate the humanitarian response.”
Senior Oxfam official Mark Goldring, who is currently visiting Oxfam's work with refugees on the Jordanian/Syrian border, said responding to the crisis is Oxfam's No. 1 priority.

“We hear each day that the situation in Syria is desperate for so many but providing an appropriate humanitarian response is extremely difficult – and deeply frustrating. Restrictions on access mean far too many vulnerable people are not getting the help they have a right to.”

Clean water and sanitation crucial

Oxfam is applying 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 the risk of disease and ill health.

In addition, the aid agency is calling for the needs of the 1.3 million Syrian refugees now living in neighbouring countries to be fully met.  Funds are particularly short for some organizations – including Oxfam – working with Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries.

“The aid effort on the borders has been slow to get off the ground and now needs to be scaled up significantly. A massive increase in humanitarian assistance is required but we fear that instead of being stepped up, the reverse is more likely to happen and aid levels could soon decline,” added Goldring, Oxfam Great Britain's chief executive officer.

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 and plans to do more.

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.

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 looking at how best to help the vulnerable refugees living outside the camp and in host communities over the next few months.

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Please see the briefing note: Overtaken by Need


Media information:

Juliet O'Neill
Oxfam Canada


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