Crisis Watch Special: The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

Emily Wymer 8 March 2013

The ongoing conflict in Syria is causing an impending and ever-worsening humanitarian crisis. Yesterday it was announced that over one million refugees have now fled Syria – a figure that the UN originally predicted as a worst case scenario for June.

The millionth refugee was recorded by the UNHCR as a 19-year-old mother of two. The rate of flows of people from Syria is only increasing. Last month, Jordan recorded its highest ever refugee intake, with over 50,000 new arrivals. Oxfam estimate that 5,000 people are leaving Syria every day – a 36% increase on December’s figures.

Neighbouring countries have been commended internationally for maintaining open borders and continuing to accept refugees, despite dwindling available capacity.

Jordan and Lebanon hold the highest numbers of refugees; numbers there have doubled in Egypt in the past three months, risen by one fifth in Turkey since the beginning of the year, and Iraq already holds numbers it did not expect to receive until June.

The Zaatari refugee camp near the border of Syria and Jordan holds 120,000 officially-registered refugees, and is near to capacity, putting strain on available resources.

The Jordanian government intends to open another two camps in order to house an expected continued increase in the number of displaced people.

Oxfam’s Syria crisis response manager, Francis Lacasse, has warned that the need for humanitarian relief in the region will be one that is long-term and ongoing.

“Even if there was an immediate halt to the violence today, there will be massive humanitarian needs that will need to be addressed for months and years to come”, he said. “There is no quick fix”.

The overall outlook is not a positive one. The burden that the crisis is placing on the resources of surrounding countries has the potential to further destabilise the region; health issues such as typhoid and hepatitis A are increasing due to poor water supplies; and as of yet, it does not appear that situation is set to improve for those both inside and outside of Syria.

Emily Wymer