Oxfam is planning to expand its response to the Syrian crisis as it renews an agreement with the government in Damascus.
Oxfam is currently helping to provide water for more than a million people across conflict lines by drilling new wells and repairing old and damaged water networks. Last week a state-of-the-art treatment plant in Salamyah, Hama, was completed to remove naturally present hydrogen sulphide and saline salts in the town’s groundwater supply. By using reverse osmosis the plant can now provide enough drinking water for 35,000 people from the previously redundant Sinaa well.
Speaking from Damascus, chief executive of Oxfam GB, Mark Goldring, said: “Meetings with government ministers were constructive and highlighted the need to scale up the response. However, I also made clear Oxfam continues to have grave concerns about the impact of the conduct of the conflict on ordinary Syrians, and the need for greater humanitarian access to the people affected.”
Oxfam is aiming to expand its programme from supplying water to providing toilet and washing facilities, as well as hygiene promotion, to some of the millions of displaced people across the country, many living in unfinished and disused buildings.”
Ann Witteveen, Oxfam Canada’s Humanitarian Manager, said: “Improved access to water will make a big difference to families in Syria and in particular to women who do the majority of household work and care for family members when they fall ill from water-borne diseases. Women are disproportionately affected by the violence in Syria and when they flee to neighboring countries. Forced and child marriage, rape, and sexual harassment are, tragically, common occurrences. Women and girls rarely report such incidents and so they occur with impunity”.
Oxfam is facing a number of challenges with its work in 10 of the 14 governorates of Syria. The ability to assess needs and monitor programme work is hampered by safety issues and bureaucratic hurdles.
“Nearly 4 million refugees are trapped in Syria and neighboring countries struggle to cope,” said Witteveen. “Canada has been generous so far, but more funding is desperately needed to ensure that people’s most pressing needs are met and that women and girls are safe from violence.
Witteveen added however, that: “All the humanitarian aid in the world won’t end the crisis in Syria. The international community, including Canada, must do all in its power to press for a political solution to this crisis. Only then can families go home and start rebuilding their lives.”
Oxfam is currently providing assistance to people both in Syria and in the neighbouring countries of Lebanon and Jordan. Oxfam’s $16m operation in Syria began in November 2013.
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