International commitments are needed to stop the deepening crisis in Syria and the region.
Vanessa Parra is Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Press Officer.
As President Obama stepped up to the podium last week at the United Nations General Assembly, eyes were on the conflict raging in Syria. Three years since the start of the fighting, the Middle East is now host to over 3 million Syrian refugees. These refugees and the millions displaced within Syria are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles – families torn apart and uprooted by war now living in host communities that were already stretched. A video from our partners at the #WithSyria campaign released alongside the UN General Assembly shows a unique and touching perspective on the impact of this crisis.
In Syria there are daily attacks, from groups on all sides, threatening schools, hospitals, and places where civilians live. People are running for their lives. This February the United Nations Security Council demanded that indiscriminate attacks in Syria stop and promised action if these attacks continued.
When I was in Beirut earlier this year, I was struck by the immensity of what Syrians have gone through. Every refugee I met had a harrowing story to tell – a family member who was killed in front of them, lives uprooted, educations stalled, the long journeys that families undertook to reach safety. I could feel their exhaustion. But in spite of all they had been through, what came through most was a sense of humor, of hope – demonstrating the strength that can be found within the human spirit.
In light of all of this what can be done? Less than half of the $7.7 billion in humanitarian appeals have been funded for Syria. Recently the World Food Program announced that they would have to reduce the amount of money and food they could give to Syrians in urgent need of assistance. They currently do not have enough funds to cover food for people in Syria for December.
The US has been a generous donor to the Syrian humanitarian appeals, but we must not lose momentum. Oxfam’s recently released report, A Fairer Deal for Syrians, outlines steps for:
- a ramped up resettlement program for the most vulnerable Syrian refugees,
- increased aid for Syrians and neighbors, and
- an embargo to end the flow of arms to all sides of the Syrian conflict.
President Obama made an impassioned plea in his UN speech that a political process – one that is inclusive of all Syrian society – be jumpstarted. We couldn’t agree more.
As Oxfam America president Ray Offenheiser said in response, “We applaud President Obama’s emphatic call for a holistic solution to the crisis in Syria. We agree that there will be no end to the conflict and its devastating impact across the region, without an inclusive political solution. Continued leadership by President Obama and his administration with Syrian civil society and the recently appointed UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura is crucial now more than ever.”