Many Syrian refugees living outside camps across countries in the region are losing out on the help they desperately need, according to five international aid agencies today.
CARE International, Oxfam, Danish Refugee Council, Handicap International and World Vision are increasingly concerned that with more than 1.4 million – 80 per cent of all Syrian refugees – living in tents, temporary settlements, or over-crowded and expensive rented accommodation, the international response is failing to match the scale of the crisis.
Neighbouring countries are struggling to cope with the huge number of refugees. In Lebanon, Syrians make up a quarter of the population and are living in at least 1,200 locations. Just 131,000 of the half a million refugees who fled to Jordan are living in Zaatari camp. Many refugees, particularly those scattered outside cities across the region, are struggling to get information on the support services that are available to them.
The aid agencies say that the international community must massively step up its response to the growing crisis.
“Canadians and our government have been generous in support of the refugees,” says Anthony Scoggins, Oxfam Canada's Director of International Programs. “But given the enormity of need, the Canadian government should take a leadership role and dig a little deeper in support of the humanitarian response.”
According to Oxfam's Syria Response manager, Colette Fearon, "People are living in shopping centres, empty garages or makeshift tents on derelict land. They are struggling to survive on little or nothing, and many are falling through the cracks. With no immediate end in sight to the conflict the problem will only get worse. The UN describes this as the biggest refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994 and we need to make sure assistance reaches refugees no matter where they are.”
“As always, children are the most vulnerable during times of crisis,” says Dave Toycen, president and CEO of World Vision Canada. “The support of agencies like World Vision and others is so critical to helping Syria's children regain the safety and security they so desperately need.”
The aid agencies are calling on donor countries to dig deep and find more money to help them scale up the humanitarian response, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon which are hosting more than a million refugees between them. There is also a growing need to support host communities and governments, where basic services are coming under pressure from increased use.
According to World Vision, rents in parts of Lebanon have soared, often by as much as 200 per cent in just a six month period. Though rents are increasing, employment opportunities and pay have not kept pace. In Lebanon where refugees are prohibited from working in many professions, jobs that are available are usually poorly-paid and offer little or no security. While some agencies, including CARE International and Oxfam, are offering cash support to help refugees pay their rent, this is not a long term solution.
The agencies also say fears are mounting of the impact of poor living conditions on the health of refugees. Even amongst those refugees living in rented accommodation, few have access to running water or a separate toilet or bathroom and those living in tents have limited sanitation facilities, increasing the risks of disease particularly given temperatures regularly reach 40C (110F). In Jordan, more than a quarter of refugee households in the Mafraq region have no access to water, while some children living in a tent community in West Balqa could only bathe once every 10 days.
Through funds raised by the Humanitarian Coalition in Canada, CARE Lebanon recently started implementing a small, three-month water, sanitation and hygiene project,” says Gillian Barth, President and CEO of CARE Canada. “So much more is needed, as access to safe and clean water is a fundamental human right for all refugees.”
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- Oxfam is providing aid to those affected by the crisis in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. To date they have helped more than 250,000 people and plan to help 650,000 by the end of this year. In Lebanon and Jordan, Oxfam is providing vulnerable families with cash assistance to help them afford a place to live and improving access to safe water and sanitation. Infrastructure inside Syria has been badly damaged by the ongoing conflict and Oxfam has started work to provide emergency water and sanitation to up to 300,000 people throughout the country.
- CARE International has reached about 110,000 Syrians in Jordan, providing cash assistance to pay for basic living costs, including rent, food and clothes, essential relief items and vital information on how to access further health care and social support. In addition, CARE supports Jordanian host communities. In Lebanon, CARE is planning to meet approximately 150,000 refugees' and vulnerable host communities' basic and pressing needs. In Egypt, they aim to reach at least 20,000 refugees with cash support and assistance on sexual and gender based violence.
- World Vision has worked in the region for more than 30 years and is responding to the needs of people fleeing the conflict, in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. World Vision is reaching more than 220,000 people across the three countries with health services, emergency supplies, clean water, sanitation and child protection support.