Imagine if the populations of Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory were deprived of basic necessities like water, food, and sanitation for years. For most it is a situation impossible to imagine, but that is the reality of the 12 million people caught up in the deadly Syria conflict.
This Sunday marks the 4th anniversary of the devastating conflict, which has so far killed 220 000 people. Of the 12 million people in need and reliant on humanitarian assistance, 5.6 million are children, which is more than the entire population of children in Australia.
Oxfam Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said understandably it was difficult to grasp the scale of what is currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“The Syrian crisis has killed more people than the combined populations of Shepparton, Gladstone, Bunbury and Coffs Harbour, and left 12 million people critically dependent on humanitarian aid to meet basic needs like food, water and shelter,” Dr Szoke said.
“More than 5.6 million of those in need of urgent help are children. Parents would be shocked to learn that this is more than the entire population of children in Australia.”
Schools and medical facilities have also been targeted by fighters in the conflict, a serious breach of international law, which killed at least 160 children in 2014.
The past year has been the most devastating to date, with reports of 76,000 killed in the highest death toll so far, and more people in need than ever before. Suffering is compounded by continued restrictions on access for the delivery of aid, with no improvement in access to those in hard to reach areas.
Despite the extent of the crisis and rising needs of people affected, humanitarian funding has also decreased compared to needs over the last 2 years, with donors including the Australian government dragging their feet on aid contributions.
“Last year, Australia gave just a third of its fair share of aid to the Syrian crisis,” Dr Szoke said.
“With the needs of people affected by the crisis being so great; this is deeply disappointing.”
Approximately $11.1 billion (AUD) is needed to respond to the crisis in 2015. Oxfam has calculated that Australia’s fair share of this would be $149 million (AUD) which is just 1.3 per cent of the global appeal.
Donor governments will be coming together at the end of March in Kuwait to pledge funding for the crisis.
“The tragic news is that rather than the situation improving last year, it deteriorated and 2014 was the worst year of the Syria crisis for civilians,” Dr Szoke said.
For interviews, including from Oxfam’s staff on the ground or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or firstname.lastname@example.org