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.
The UN General Assembly in New York this week has been dominated by talk of weapons. Leaders have grappled with how to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, broached renewed discussion on Iran’s nuclear programme and created an historic moment on Wednesday when the USA joined with a running total of over 100 other states to sign the Arms Trade Treaty.
On Syria, it seems that talk might finally turn into concrete action – with diplomats signalling that a UN Security Council resolution backing a plan to remove the country’s chemical weapons is within reach. If the resolution is passed, it will represent a much-needed display of unity from states who have so far failed to overcome deep divisions in their approach to the brutal conflict. But such a resolution won’t bring an end to the suffering; men, women and children are continuing to die every day – largely through the use of conventional weapons. We need to see this unity translate into a comprehensive plan to bring the warring parties to the table for peace talks. The pressure is on. Clearly, Syria’s people cannot wait any longer for an end to the fighting.
While leaders’ clock up the hours at the negotiating table inside the UN building, Oxfam campaigners took to the streets outside this week to remind them that real people, both in Syria and around the world, are watching their every move. We are counting on them to do the right thing and prioritise a political solution that will bring an end to the conflict once and for all.
Cameras flocked to a 3D artwork designed by Eduardo Relero depicting Syrian refugees surround President Obama and President Putin as they pour over a map of Syria, willing them to overcome their differences.
We handed in the signatures of more than 100,000 people who signed a petition targeting the Presidents. A banner featuring a whopping 100,000 miniature human figures – one for every signature and, horrifically, one for every life lost so far in the conflict – was displayed.
Activists also bombarded the twitter handles of US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urging them to set a date for a peace conference as they came together to talk. They’re due to meet with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon today. We desperately need them to heed our call.
Crying for peace
As Liqaa’, the Syrian refugee who joined with Oxfam and partners to launch the petition for peace talks, said: "Our children are crying for peace, but I don’t want mine to have to cry for it. We’ve shed enough tears and blood already. What we need is an end to the suffering. That is my dream.”
When you think about Liqaa’ and her newborn baby, the 2 million refugees spread across Syria’s neighbouring countries and the yet further millions of people inside the country surviving day to do in fear for their lives and their future, the price of further delays to diplomatic progress is too heavy to contemplate.