When the UN launches the biggest humanitarian appeal in its history— as it did today for $5 billion—it’s hard to ignore the urgency behind the record-breaking number.
For countless Syrians, who have endured two years of brutal conflict, that urgency is a daily reality. With their homes bombed and their jobs gone, where will they live? How will they get food, water, medicine?
“We are witnessing the daily human wreckage of a country tearing itself apart,” said Jane Cocking, Oxfam’s humanitarian director. “This is the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis. The scale is staggering and getting worse.”
The UN estimates that more than 1.6 million refugees have now fled Syria to seek safety in neighboring countries. They have arrived with virtually nothing and face huge obstacles in meeting the needs of their families. Inside Syria, an estimated 4.25 million people have been displaced.
“Our house was bombed. It’s all gone. Nothing left,” said a woman who is too afraid to offer her name. She is now living in a small room—about 8 feet by 20 feet—inside an unused restaurant in Lebanon. Seven other members of her extended family are crowded into the dark, damp room with her. There is no running water. And the family can only afford to eat one decent meal a day, with whatever is left-over providing meager fixings for a second.
“Is no one in America, Europe watching the news? Are they not seeing what is happening to us?” she asked.
With the UN’s announcement today, maybe they will.
“Syria as a civilization is unraveling with as many as half its citizens needing urgent help as a result of this savage conflict,” said António Guterres, the UN’s high commissioner for refugees. “The funds we are appealing for are a matter of survival for suffering Syrians and they are existential for neighboring countries hosting refugees.”
Oxfam is exploring options to be able to work inside Syria and is helping refugees in Lebanon and Jordan. So far, we have reached about 60,000 people and in the coming months aim to help 650,000. But we’re far short of our fundraising goals. Of the $53 million we need, we have raised only $16 million so far.
“Our common humanity implores us to respond to the suffering of millions of Syrians caught up in unremitting tragedy,” said Cocking.