Australia has contributed just 27 per cent of its fair share of humanitarian funding to the Syria crisis this year, with the international response as a whole still failing to meet the needs of those suffering through one of the biggest refugee crises since the end of the Second World War.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Helen Szoke said while world leaders in New York this week would focus on security issues in the region, it was vital that the humanitarian fallout of the three-and-a-half-year Syrian civil war was not ignored.
“In Syria, a steady flow of Kalashnikovs, bombs and missiles are fuelling terrible human rights violations, while aid struggles to reach the large numbers of those who so desperately need it,” Dr Szoke said.
“As Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop attend international talks in New York this week, we urge them not to forget the 6.5 million civilians displaced within Syria and 3 million refugees in neighbouring countries, desperately wishing they could return home.
“Australia 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.
“Governments must increase aid, help to resettle more refugees and make genuine in roads towards peace negotiations.”
The UN-managed humanitarian appeal for Syria is only 41% funded, which is having a devastating impact for people on the ground. While a staggering 10.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, lack of funds is forcing humanitarian agencies to reduce life-saving aid.
Devastatingly, the World Food Programme has also 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 (US$109.6 million), however it has so far only given AU$31 million (US$29.2 million) while the United Kingdom has given more than 20 times that amount, well over its fair share.
“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 urgently,” Dr Szoke said.
“With world leaders coming together in New York to pledge funds for Syria this week, now is an opportune time for Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop to ensure Australia gives its fair share.”
Dr Szoke also urged Australia and the international community to do more to reduce the number of people killed by the conflict, with a staggering190,000 lives lost so far.
“Governments must boost their diplomatic efforts by working with the UN’s new peace envoy and expand the UN presence in Damascus, support mediation and monitoring of locally negotiated ceasefires and encourage an end to siege tactics.
“They should also heed Ban Ki Moon’s call and stem the flow of arms and ammunition to Syria that continue to fuel the conflict, and call on the UNSC to impose a full arms embargo on the country.”
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