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.
“We don’t have water. We don’t have electricity on a regular basis. There are lots of rats and mice running around. Nothing is hygienic. It’s impossible to keep everything clean. The roof leaks... we never lived like this in Syira. We never thought we would ever have to live like this.”Yasmin*, 33, mother of four
As the situation inside Syria deteriorates, the number of people displaced by the conflict gets bigger every day. People like Yasmin, a Syrian refugee living in Lebanon – just one of the estimated 1.6 million people who now live as refugees in neighboring countries. A further 4.25 million people inside Syria have also been forced to leave their homes.
This is a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions, and one that the international community was not ready for. That’s why today the UN launches its largest appeal ever, calling for 5 billion in humanitarian aid for Syria. This might seem like a lot of money, but it’s a simple reflection of the scale of the crisis facing Syria and its neighbors.
Inside Syria, access to basic services is getting increasingly tough as the conflict that has already claimed 80,000 lives rages on. In refugee communities, families struggle to afford food, water and shelter, and jobs are scarce. Take Daher* for example:
“Back in Syria I was a car mechanic but I also worked as a taxi driver and we had a small shop selling grilled meat. I was always busy doing something. It’s very hard not being able to work and provide for my family, especially when they are suffering so much. I’ve been looking for work but there are no jobs here.”
His situation is typical of many refugee families in Lebanon and Jordan. As the number of refugees increases, the cost of rent goes up, and the number of available jobs goes down. Without employment, many have no choice but to rely on the hospitality of host communities – many of which face problems of their own.
Conditions in the refugee camps and settlements generously hosted by Syria’s neighbors are difficult. After a long cold winter, summer is fast approaching, and families now face climbing temperatures and an increased risk of disease. Children are facing their second year in a row without school. While 38% of primary-aged children still manage to go to school, for secondary-aged children that figure drops to just 2%.
Here at Oxfam, we welcome the UN Appeal, and we’re calling on governments all around the world to make sure they step up to the plate and ensure that the appeal is fully funded. As the situation in Syria gets worse every day, and the number of refugees pouring into neighboring countries increases, the need for urgent humanitarian aid gets bigger and bigger.
The UN, for example, estimates that by the end of the year the number of people forced to flee Syria will increase to 3.75 million. Many governments have given generously already. But it is simply not enough. Even in tough economic times there can be no excuses for governments to shirk their duty to dig deep and generously fund the aid effort. Syria’s people have suffered enough. They cannot be allowed to pay the price of the world’s failure to match their need.
* Names changed