A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
‘Two years? Has it been going on that long?’ That’s the common reaction when I tell people in the UK that the conflict in Syria is nearing its second anniversary.
This time two years ago, the international news agenda was dominated by stories about the wave of protests running across North Africa and the Middle East. On 15 March 2011 it was Syria’s turn.
Nationwide demonstrations took hold against President Bashar al-Assad and his ruling party, which were quickly met with a violent response from the national army. Events rapidly spiralled and the country soon found itself in the midst of a terrible conflict.
One million people have now fled Syria. This unimaginable figure was announced last week by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Inside the country it is estimated that there are another two million people displaced and at least 70,000 killed.
The stories told by people who have been forced to flee their homes, leaving almost everything behind them, are heartbreaking. And the stories of courage humbling.
Omayya, a mother of two, currently living in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, has had to find a new way of making ends meet and supporting her family. Her daughter has a medical condition that requires expensive treatment so Omayya has started making and selling pop corn from her tent.
“There are three main reasons I have to do this,” Omayya explains, “One, is that my daughter is the most important thing to me than anything else in the world. Second, my mother is old she has diabetes and high blood pressure and is not able to do anything and needs my help; and thirdly, in terms of solidarity in our family and anyone else in need. Everyone is in need here; things are very expensive in the camp. Whoever can work should work to help other people.”
#SyriaCrisis Global Vigil - Thursday 14 March
On Thursday 14 March, the eve of the two year anniversary since the start of the crisis, people all over the world will be showing their solidarity with the people of Syria.
Candlelit vigils will be held from Lebanon to The Netherlands, from Egypt to Germany. And we want you to join us.
While vigils are taking place across the globe, a virtual vigil will take over social media and you can be part of this. Tweet a picture of yourself holding a candle to #SyriaCrisis to strengthen the call for peace.
You can also visit syriavigil.org to find out if a vigil is taking place near you and for tips on how to organise your own vigil, no matter how small.
Stand up for peace and show the people of Syria that the world has not forgotten them.
Oxfam's response to the Crisis in Syria