Australia must increase support for Syria crisis as UN launches largest ever appeal

Campaigns and Advocacy, Emergencies, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 07 Jun 2013

As the United Nations launches its biggest ever humanitarian appeal, international aid agency Oxfam Australia is urging the Federal Government to increase its support for people affected by the Syrian civil war.

With one in three Syrians now in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, the UN will today launch a new appeal for people affected by the Syria crisis. This appeal is anticipated to be around US$5 billion, which would make it the UN’s largest humanitarian appeal in history.

This is far greater than other UN appeals for some of the biggest crises of recent history, including the 2011 Horn of Africa food crisis ($2.5 billion across Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti), the 2010 Haiti earthquake ($1.5 billion) and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami ($1.28 billion).

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the expected size of the UN appeal reflected the rapidly rising needs. “This is one of the worst humanitarian disasters the world has ever seen,” Dr Szoke said.

“Syria is a country with a population of 21 million – almost the same as Australia – but where eight million of its people are in now in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria and surrounding areas.

“That’s almost the equivalent of the entire population of Sydney and Melbourne in need of urgent help. The human toll of Syria’s conflict is nothing short of staggering.

“The Australian Government needs to urgently increase humanitarian assistance to the people affected by the Syria crisis and use its role on the UN Security Council to open up humanitarian access inside Syria, where needs are most desperate.”

Dr Szoke said Australia had already been a generous donor, giving $78.5 million to the crisis since it began in 2011, including recently providing $1 million to support Oxfam’s refugee programs in Lebanon.

But she said with thousands of refugees continuing to flee the violence in Syria each day, placing significant strain on national governments, host communities and the humanitarian system, now was the time for Australia to step up and give more.

Dr Szoke also encouraged the Australian public to give generously to Oxfam Australia’s Syria Crisis Appeal. “Governments can only do so much, and with thousands of families fleeing Syria, we urgently need more funds to increase support to people who most urgently need it.”

Notes to editors:

Oxfam has Australian staff working on the Syria crisis in Lebanon and Jordan who are available for interview.

To donate to Oxfam Australia’s Syria Crisis Appeal, go to or phone 1800 034 034

For interviews or more information contact Oxfam Australia media coordinator Chee Chee Leung on 0412 560 584 or