Overtaken By Need: The world's failure to meet Syria's humanitarian crisis | Refugees Of The Syrian Civil War

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The human cost of Syria
  OXFAM BRIEFING NOTE 30 APRIL 2013 www.oxfam.org  Rania, a refugee in Lebanon, is awaiting registration. She lives in one room with five of her children, all boys; two daughters are in Jordan, and one in Syria. Photo: Luca Sola/Oxfam OVERTAKEN BY NEED T he world’s failure to meet Syria’s escalating humanitarian crisis The human cost of Syria’s conflict has risen beyond all expectations. In January, the UN predicted 1.1 million refugees by June. This April, there are already 1.3 million. Inside Syria itself, 6.8 million people struggle in urgent need of assistance. As the numbers grow, however, the money to help some of those refugees and displaced people is running out. UN appeals have received only half of what they sought  –  to help far fewer people than they now need to assist. The world has failed to find common purpose to end Syria’s brutal conflict. Shamefully, it has also failed to provide enough aid to help th e conflict’s most vulnerable victims. Without a massive increase in aid now, millions of Syrians will miss out on the food, water, shelter and medical care that they desperately need. Donor governments  –  both in the region and the OECD  –  must urgently give more aid now, and be ready to give more as needs increase further and, tragically, Syria’s humanitarian crisis continues for some time.    2 INTRODUCTION Few humanitarian crises are as avoidable and tragic as Syria ’s . The wilful actions and inactions of many have turned an apparently stable country into a humanitarian disaster in two years. It will not be over until the great powers of the region, and of the world, unite to press all sides for peace. The world’s failure to do so over two bloody years is now shockingly compounded by the failure to provide sufficient funding soon enough for the humanitarian response. Money is never enough. Ending the violence is more urgent than ever before.  And overcoming the obstacles to get aid to those cut off through obstruction and violence is fundamentally vital, by facilitating unimpeded access for aid organizations to affected people inside Syria and the provision of greater humanitarian assistance across borders. But the absolute minimum the world must do urgently now is simply to fund the humanitarian aid needed by millions of Syrians, caught between war and want, in their homeland and in neighbouring countries. That is the passionate call that Oxfam hears from the refugees it is working with in host communities, camps and gatherings across Lebanon and Jordan. In January 2013, the UN asked the world’s governments to fund the combined refugee and Syria appeals for $1.5bn (now updated to $1.6bn) at a Pledging Conference in Kuwait. According to UN figures, the combined Syria and Refugee appeals are no more than 52 percent funded, even after Kuwait and others made substantial new donations in mid-April  –  new donations that provided a ‘breathing space’ only, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees . 2   The UN’s twin Syria appeals –  to cover humanitarian needs inside Syria and to support Syrian refugees in the region  –  are still woefully underfunded. Although some governments are giving large amounts outside the appeals, the lack of transparent information means that it is very difficult to know who is getting assistance, where aid is being duplicated, and how to channel aid to reach those most desperately in need of food, water, sanitation and shelter, regardless of ethnicity, faith or political affiliation.  All the while, more Syrians flee their country, and their need for vital assistance increases. Lebanon, which, along with Jordan, hosts most of the refugees, has, in a remarkably short period of time, received numbers of refugees equivalent in proportion to its population to 50 million Syrians arriving in the EU or 30 million in the US. Without far greater international assistance, that is neither just nor sustainable. Today, the aid effort is shamefully inadequate. Soon, without a massive increase in support, it may be overwhelmed by rising need. There are promises and promises, but we get nothing. My family is living on bread and oil. Fatima, 1  a refugee in Lebanon, April 2013 In April 2013, members of the UN Security Council urged all parties to ensure safe and unimpeded access for aid organizations in all areas of Syria, called for the urgent removal of bureaucratic and other obstacles; and underlined the need to facilitate humanitarian assistance in the most effective ways including when appropriate across borders in accordance with guiding principles of humanitarian assistance. UNSC press elements on Syria, 18 April 2013 The needs are growing while our capacity to do more is diminishing, due to security and other  practical limitations within Syria as well as funding constraints. We are precariously close, perhaps within weeks, to suspending some humanitarian support. Valerie Amos, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and the heads of UN humanitarian agencies, 15 April 2013   3 RISING NUMBERS AND SPIRALLING NEED In the first three months of 2013, the number of Syrian refugees more than doubled. In January, there were around 500,000. By April, there were more than 1.3 million in neighbouring countries including Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, 50 per cent of whom were children. 3  In March alone, at least 250,000 people fled Syria. 4  According to some predictions, by the end of 2013, Lebanon could have 1.2 million refugees. 5   Figure 1: Number of refugees from April 2012 to April 2013 6   Source: UNHCR  At the same time, more than 4 million men, women and children are displaced within Syria itself, among the total of 6.8 million in urgent need. 7  They too have fled the conflict and human rights violations by both government and opposition forces that Amnesty International has recorded. 8  The numbers fleeing are increasing as the violence continues. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 2013 was the ‘ deadliest ’ month of the conflict so far. 9  Those refugees and displaced people may have escaped death, but they face worsening shortages of basic necessities. Every day, UNHCR registers 7,000 new refugees, many of them with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. 10  Two-thirds of registered refugees live within local communities. 11  Despite their generous support, the refugees are struggling to live with too little water, high housing costs, and little money for medical treatment for chronic illnesses. Up to 20 refugees share two or three rooms. 12   0200000400000600000800000100000012000001400000 My house completely vanished. They destroyed the whole area. There is no house to return to, and no shop to work in. Jamal, aged 41, a refugee arrived in Jordan, April 2013. We used to hear the bombs and the firing, the tanks, grenades and the rockets. I feared for my daughter. We only had one choice, and that was to leave Syria .   Samira, a refugee in Lebanon,  April 2013    4 A house but not a home Ibrahim, 40, a refugee from Syria, lives in a run-down house in Mafraq, Jordan, with his wife, five sons between 6 and 12 years old and 13-month-old daughter ‘ Before the war, I used to have a market. I earned money for myself and my children. A missile destroyed my house. The house got burned and I took my children out of the cou ntry. Living here needs cash and I don’t have any. I’m unemployed and unable to work. I have a baby that needs nappies. I’m looking for a house but all cost 150 JDs ($211). ’ For those living in refugee camps, conditions are also difficult. Every day, more than 2,000 new refugees reach Zaatari camp in Jordan, which already has more than 100,000 people. It is overcrowded, and while the facilities are all expanding  –  with the help of recent funding  –  the rapid increase in refugees is putting pressure on services. While the current situation is serious, it could soon get worse. The humanitarian community is operating on minimum funding. Recent funding has been welcome to ensure that immediate needs are met  –  such as food aid in Lebanon. However, as the numbers of people affected increase, so do the needs. In Jordan, for example, cash programmes for refugees in host communities provide much-needed assistance, but even so, refugee families are falling into debt.  At the same time, Oxfam struggles, with insufficient funds, to help as much as it aims to. The generosity of its supporters, donations from the public and institutions alike, enable it to provide vital aid to thousands. But the gap between what Oxfam can currently do and what it must is one of the greatest Oxfam has faced. For example, it cannot provide enough latrines for the number of refugees in its operational areas in Zaatari camp and without more funds, Oxfam will not be able to retain the temporary latrines it has installed. Palestinians fleeing Syria face challenges of their own. Many are in overcrowded camps for Palestinians in Lebanon, in makeshift houses with poor access to basic services. 13  According to a recent assessment by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, half of the households surveyed had insufficient food, and only 7 per cent of refugees were working. 14  Within Syria, the numbers of people in need are even larger, and growing. An estimated 6.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance (more than 4 million of whom are internally displaced), and access to them has reduced since February. 15  Basic services such as schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation systems are collapsing. 16  Essential medicines are in short supply. 17  Outbreaks of disease such as Hepatitis A and leishmaniasis are increasing. 18  Children are facing yet another year without school. Although the ICRC works extensively with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, there are few other international organizations inside Syria, due to severe restrictions on access by the government, bureaucratic impediments, and insecurity. Groups of Syrians and local organizations are working to distribute aid in both government and opposition-held areas, but capacity is weak (including within the Assistance Coordination Unit of the Syria National Coalition) and accessing and absorbing financial assistance is difficult. These challenges have prompted the UN Security Council to call for cross-border assistance to be provided where appropriate. 19   UNRWA says they can’t give more assistance because there isn’t enough money. There should be more money. I never asked UNRWA for assistance until now. Zeinab, a Palestinian refugee from Syria in Shatila camp, Lebanon, April 2013.
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