Urgent Security Council action on Syria is desperately needed as suffering in the war-torn country increases by the day, international aid agency Oxfam warned today.
With nearly seven million people now in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and more than 1.3 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries, Oxfam is calling on Australia to use its position on the UN Security Council to push for an improved humanitarian response.
Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said: “The world is failing the people of Syria at a time when they most need our help. Responding to this crisis must be the international community’s number one priority.
“The situation in Syria is desperate for so many but providing an appropriate humanitarian response is extremely difficult. Restrictions on access mean far too many vulnerable people are not getting the help they need.”
Since taking up its role on the Security Council in January, Australia has been a strong advocate for action on Syria. This includes drafting last week’s Security Council statement, known as “press elements”, condemning the widespread human rights violations in Syria and urging all parties to allow access for aid organisations.
“Australia’s efforts so far to address the humanitarian fallout of the Syria crisis are commendable, and demonstrate the added value Australia brings to the UN Security Council,” Dr Szoke said.
“We are now calling on Australia to push the Security Council to ensure the Syrian Government and opposition groups open up humanitarian access so aid reaches those most in need, including across borders from neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
“Australia’s leadership on the Security Council is needed now more than ever as humanitarian needs are spiralling out of control and access is still insufficient.”
In a new briefing paper released today, Overtaken By Need, Oxfam says that three months after $1.5 billion was pledged for the UN’s six-month appeal for the Syria crisis response, just over half of the money has been received.
Funds are particularly short for some organisations – including Oxfam – working with Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. Refugee numbers have doubled in the first three months of the year and Oxfam warns that similar or even higher levels of funding will be required for the response in the future as the humanitarian catastrophe worsens.
The Australian Government has now committed $34 million to the aid effort in Syria and neighbouring countries this year, bringing Australia’s total contribution to $65.5 million since the crisis began. It is critical that Australia maintains funding levels as the needs rise, and that plans are put in place for the long-term response.
“Even if the crisis ended tomorrow the fighting has been so destructive that it will require years to repair the physical and psychological damage and rebuild the country,” Dr Szoke said.
“Australia must be prepared for the long haul in Syria. The future will be very bleak for people affected by this crisis unless they can access support long into the future.”
Notes to editors:
- Oxfam has Australian aid workers available for interview in Lebanon and Jordan.
- To donate to Oxfam Australia’s Syria Crisis Appeal please call 1800 034 034 or visit the website www.oxfam.org.au
For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or firstname.lastname@example.org