Australia pledge to Syria humanitarian crisis appeal deeply disappointing – Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 16 Jan 2014

Australia has pledged just AU$10 million to help Syrians struggling to survive the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st Century both inside Syria and in refugee camps outside of the country.

Australia pledged the $10million at the Second International Syria Pledging Conference held yesterday in Kuwait City where the UN had asked for $US6.5 billion from world governments. The conference, aiming to rally international support behind the UN appeals for humanitarian assistance inside Syria as well as neighboring countries hosting 2.3 million refugees, raised a total of US$2.4 billion from countries around the world.

Australia’s $10million (U$8.9million) has contributed less than half a percent of the US$2.4 billion committed in Kuwait, and the $10 million amounts to just 0.14% of the total appeal money.

Oxfam Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said Australia’s pledge was deeply disappointing.

“Australia’s commitment to the appeal is not commensurate with the need, the size of the appeal or Australia’s capacity to contribute,” Dr Szoke said.

As the conflict nears its fourth year, millions of Syrians continue to require essential humanitarian aid to survive. Food, water, shelter, medical care, education are all represented by the $6.5 billion dollar appeal the UN has put forward, which itself underestimates the true scale of the need. The international community must come through now with support – including for neighbouring states hosting refugees – and look ahead to plan for long-term recovery.
Oxfam has undertaken research to calculate the fair share contributions that should be given by donor governments such as Australia to the UN Appeal. The findings take into account a country’s Gross National Income (GNI) and previous contributions to the Syria response.

“Australia’s fair share of the 2014 appeal is AUD $106 million (USD $95.9 million). Australia’s $10 million pledge yesterday gets us just 10 per cent of the way there,” Dr Szoke said.

Australia’s commitment is in stark contrast to the much larger pledges of other western donor governments such as the United States (US $380m) and the UK (US$164m).

“This is the largest humanitarian appeal in history for a reason. The needs are staggering. This is the worst crisis of the 21st Century,” Dr Szoke said.

“Australia needs to give its fair share to the appeal, and needs to do so quickly – as time is running out for millions of people struggling to survive as the conflict rages.

“Australia has humanitarian contingency funds available for just this purpose. There is no reason to withhold Australia’s assistance to people living in unbearable conditions.”

Australia has been a generous donor to the Syria crisis in the past, giving AU $100m since the crisis began.

Australia’s humanitarian assistance to Syria has supported the delivery of food, shelter and basic health care to two million people inside Syria and assistance to 1.5 million refugees in the region. This is something all Australians can all be proud of.

“However with four times as many refugees than in January last year and twice as many people in need of aid inside Syria itself, we are calling on the Government to take the next step, and fund its fair share of the appeal,” Dr Szoke said.

For more information or to interview Oxfam Chief Executive Helen Szoke please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or Sara Pelvin on 0448 554 495