The Australian Government has missed a prime opportunity to increase its humanitarian aid to Syria, failing to bring money to the table at a high level UN General Assembly meeting in New York yesterday.
The United Kingdom and the European Commission pledged new funds totalling AUS$497 million at the ministerial meeting, which focussed on the humanitarian development situation in Syria and neighbouring countries.
Oxfam Humanitarian Manager Meg Quartermaine said prior to the meeting the UN-managed humanitarian appeal for Syria was only 46 per cent funded, and the funding gap was having devastating impact for people on the ground. Australia has so far contributed AUS$31 million, just 27 per cent of its fair share to crisis this year, but it is not too late to commit further assistance while the issue is in the spotlight.
“Australia has missed a significant opportunity to join other countries to increase humanitarian efforts to help the 6.5 million displaced people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and more than 3 million refugees in neighbouring countries,” Ms Quartermaine said.
“As we have seen in Turkey this week, the number of people fleeing the deadly violence in Syria is rapidly increasing, and this comes at a time when the lack of funds is forcing humanitarian agencies to reduce life-saving aid.”
“It’s not too late for Australia to make a difference in the lives of Syrians. When Foreign Minister Julie Bishop returns from New York tomorrow we hope she will consider Australia’s contribution and commit additional funds to help arrest this devastating crisis while the region is in the international spotlight.”
The World Food Programme has announced that from October the food parcel it will provide to more than 4 million people in Syria will be smaller, and it currently has no funding available to deliver food programmes in the country in December.
Oxfam has calculated that Australia’s fair share for the crisis this year is AU$117.6 million, however it has so far only given AU$31 million, while the United Kingdom has now pledged more than AUS$412 million this year.
Ms Quartermaine said while world leaders in New York this week were understandably focussed on security issues in the region, it was vital that the humanitarian fallout of the Syrian civil war was not ignored.
“So far more than 23,000 Australians have signed an Oxfam petition urging the Foreign Minister to give at least $70 million to the Syria crisis appeals by the end of the year. It’s not too late for Australia to make this important contribution”.
Ms Quartermaine said the government also needed to exert diplomatic pressure to work towards achieving political solutions to the conflict.
“Australia also needs to push for a change in the way the international community is responding to this crisis, which is having a destabilising impact on the entire region,” Ms Quartermaine said.
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