According to the United Nations, the conflict in Syria has produced the gravest refugee crisis in the world since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It estimates the number of refugees in neighbouring countries at well over 1.8 million, with thousands continuing to flee daily and an estimated 3.5 million refugees expected by the end of 2013.
The surge has placed a tremendous burden on aid agencies and host countries alike, resulting in the U.N’s biggest humanitarian appeal in its history, for $5 billion.
Due to the large numbers of people fleeing the conflict – an estimated 2,000 people a day – refugees are pursuing whatever options they can to find shelter and access to clean facilities.
“People are living in shopping centers, empty garages or makeshift tents on derelict land. They are struggling to survive on little or nothing, and many are falling through the cracks,” says Oxfam’s Syria Response manager, Colette Fearon.
“Few have access to running water or a separate toilet or bathroom, and those living in tents have limited sanitation facilities, increasing the risks of disease, particularly given temperatures regularly reach 40C (110F).”
Oxfam International, a confederation of 17 philanthropic organizations, is helping to lead the efforts to address human suffering in Syria and neighboring countries. The group unveiled a rollout of solar-power lampposts to help create a safer environment for thousands of people living in the Zataari refugee camp; the camp has swollen to 120,000 people, effectively making it Jordan’s fourth-largest city.
“The Oxfam engineers have to leave the camp each day at a certain hour, but I recently had the privilege to stay overnight,”said Oxfam’s Karl Schembri. “I could see these lights are lighting up entire streets, so people feel safe to go to the toilet at night. When I showed my pictures to the engineers, it was the first time they could see the effect at night. They were so happy and proud.”
To learn more about Oxfam’s initiatives, click here.
Written by Katarina Montgomery