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Syrian refugees pushed to the brink as Za’atari refugee camp turns 10

Ten years since the first tents were pitched in Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan’s, almost 82,000 Syrian refugees are still living there, facing increasing precarity as shrinking incomes, rising prices and spiralling debt drive them further into poverty.

Over the past decade, caravans have replaced tents and Za’atari has become the biggest Syrian refugee camp in the world with more than half of the population children.

“Syrian refugees in Jordan are facing a burgeoning humanitarian crisis. Global shocks have compounded the vulnerabilities of refugees, whose savings are long depleted after a protracted exile; 93% of Syrian refugee households are now in debt,” said Hannah Patchett, policy and media manager for Oxfam in Jordan.

A series of external crises have created economic turmoil in Jordan, from the economic fallout of the Syrian conflict to the COVID-19 pandemic, and most recently the Ukraine crisis, pushing Syrian refugees to the brink.

In Za’atari refugee camp, around a third of refugees have reduced the number of meals they eat and more than two-thirds have had to buy food on credit, according to the UN. Food prices have soared: the cost of food increased by 22% in shops in Za’atari during just four months in 2022.

“Global shocks have compounded the vulnerabilities of refugees, whose savings are long depleted after a protracted exile; 93% of Syrian refugee households are now in debt,” Hannah Patchett, policy and media manager Oxfam in Jordan While each refugee receives JD 23 ($32) in monthly food vouchers from the World Food Programme, this doesn’t meet basic needs. “The price of five litres of cooking oil has risen from JD 7 to JD 16. We have nothing left after buying rice and sugar,” said Mahmoud, a father in Za’atari refugee camp.

Oxfam is responsible for waste management in Za’atari and provides short-term work opportunities to refugees in roles such as waste collection and recycling. Over the past two years, Oxfam has provided temporary work to more than 10,000 refugees in Za’atari camp. These opportunities are a lifeline, but they are at risk from shrinking funding.

Amid competing global crises, humanitarian funding for Syrian refugees in Jordan is in decline. As of July 2022, the Jordan Response Plan for the Syria crisis does not have 90 per cent of needed funds.

Up to 1.3 million Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan, of whom 675,000 are registered with UNHCR. With no end in sight to their displacement, Syrian refugees also need longer-term solutions, including a chance to build meaningful futures. “

Donor countries must increase funding to Jordan to help refugees and vulnerable Jordanians meet their basic needs in the short-term, and to support Jordan’s economic recovery and growth so all Jordanians and refugees can fulfil their potential,” said Patchett.

“Protection and support for refugees is a global responsibility. Beyond providing financing, high-income countries must also welcome more Syrian refugees. With the Ukraine crisis, Europe has shown its capacity to provide refuge. More must be done to include Syrian and other refugees: The right of refuge is universal; it must not be selective,” she added.

Notes to editors

•Za’atari refugee camp was established on July 29, 2012.

•The camp is divided into 12 districts and is served with 32 schools, 8 health facilities and 58 community centres.

•Za’atari has a young population: 55% are children. More than half of families in the camp have a family member with disability, while 42 per cent of families have at least one member with a chronic illness. •Each refugee living in the camp receives a JD23 (32USD) monthly WFP voucher for in-kind assistance, which is insufficient for basic needs.

•UNHCR recorded in 2021 a 7 per cent drop in employment for refugee individuals of working age in Za’atari compared to April 2020.

•There has been an 11.8 per cent increase in the number of child marriages in Syrian refugee camps in 2022 compared to 2019.

•UNHCR’s 7th regional intention survey, found that in 2022, 94 per cent of Syrian refugees living in Jordan are not planning on returning to Syria in the next year, compared to 73 per cent in 2018.

•Oxfam is responsible for all waste management in Za’atari refugee camp and runs two recycling facilities in the camp, reducing the burden on Jordanian landfills. Through cash-for-work programmes, Oxfam has provided more than 10,000 income opportunities to refugees in Za’atari during the past two years in waste collection, recycling and community engagement.

Contact information

Spokespersons are available, kindly contact:

Jassar Al-Tahat | Media and Communications manager in Jordan

jaltahat@oxfam.org.uk | +962 798649980 | Skype: Jassar Al Tahat

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Unprecedented spike in food prices puts Yemenis at risk of extreme hunger

Yemen is facing unprecedented rises in the price of food putting millions more people in danger of catastrophic hunger, Oxfam warned today.

Already exhausted by over seven years of conflict, Yemen has been hit hard by the worsening global food crises. The prices of wheat, flour, cooking oil, eggs and sugar have all increased by more than a third since March. Such price hikes haven’t been seen since the country was subject to a blockade and never for such a prolonged period.

Yemen imports 90 per cent of its food, including 42 per cent of its wheat from Ukraine. Importers have warned that stocks may run out in the coming months and that global increase in costs will challenge their ability to secure wheat imports into Yemen. Even after last week’s welcome announcement that Ukraine will be able to export grains, the effects of the major disruption in the food supply will be felt for some time to come. Any drop in global prices could well be short-lived and may not translate into a reduction in cost for ordinary Yemenis. In a country where many people depend on bread for most of their daily food to survive, this could push millions towards starvation.

Ferran Puig, Oxfam in Yemen Country Director, said: "This unprecedented rise in food prices threatens the lives of millions of people who are now in real danger of starvation.

“Families who have been pushed to the brink by seven years of conflict are being tipped over the edge as the prices of basic food rises beyond their reach.

“World leaders must act immediately to prevent catastrophic hunger and a worsening humanitarian crisis.”

A temporary extension to the Yemen-wide truce in June has bought some relief, but the situation remains volatile and this, coupled with a wider economic crisis, rising food prices and an ailing agricultural sector – due in large part to the effects of climate change – is making life even harder for the Yemeni people – nearly 80 per cent of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance while the humanitarian response remains only 27 per cent funded.

Between March and June this year, the price of basic foods increased by up to 45 per cent.

-Flour increased by 38 per cent
-Cooking oil increased by 45 per cent
-Sugar increased by 36 per cent
-Rice increased by 30 per cent
-Canned beans increased by 38 per cent
-Powder milk increased by 36 per cent
-Eggs increased by 35 per cent

The average national price of the Minimum Food Basket (MFB) has increased by 48 per cent since December 2021 and 25 per cent since the start of the year, with the increasing costs of food imports further exacerbated by exchange rate fluctuations. Yemen’s national currency, the rial, has lost its value by 28 per cent since the beginning of the year.

Petrol and diesel prices also increased by 43 per cent in the first quarter of the year. Increased cost of fuel and an unseasonable drought caused by rising temperatures globally have caused more suffering, especially for farmers. Many Yemenis depend on agriculture and livestock as a main source of income but have seen their crops damaged or delayed and livestock dying during the current drought.

As the need grows, the lack of resources to respond comes with devastating consequences. The World Food Program has been forced to reduce the amount of aid it provides, with five million recipients of food aid now set to receive less than half of their daily calorie requirement. Eight million will receive just 25 per cent.

Families told Oxfam that to survive they are having to borrow from better-off neighbors, go into debt with food sellers, and skip meals so their children can have more to eat.

Around 56 per cent of the four million internally displaced people have no source of income at all. Women and children who make up around 77 per cent of the displaced population are at greatest risk of starvation.

Arwa, a divorced mother of two who also cares for her mother and sister said: “I struggle to afford basic food due to high prices. My mother and I reduce how much we eat, and only have two meals a day, so the children have enough. Before we could have chicken or fish every other day, or meat once a week, now we barely afford to have chicken once a week and prices of vegetables increased so we can’t afford even half of what we could last year.”

Oxfam in Yemen is supporting people to earn a living, providing basic services like clean water, sanitation, cash, and establishing solar energy at household and community levels. In 2021 we were able to help more than 23,000 households.

Oxfam is calling for the international community to facilitate the import of food supplies into Yemen by reducing obstacles, financing grain imports, and providing debt relief for Yemen.

Above all, Yemen needs a permanent end to conflict so people can safely live, learn, and earn a living. We are calling on all parties to extend the truce in the coming days as part of the path towards a sustainable peace.

Ends

Notes to editors:

Spokes people available for interview on request.

Source for per cent of grain imports: Yemen humanitarian response plan, April 2022: https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-humanitarian-response-plan-2022...

WFP statement, July 4 2022: https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-high-levels-food-insecurity-and...

WFP beneficiaries in IPC phase four and five will now receive less than 50 per cent of their daily calorie requirement. The remaining eight million will receive just 25 per cent.

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Global food system is pushing millions worldwide into starvation

Food inflation in Ethiopia reaches 44%, almost five times the global average

Food inflation in East African countries has increased dramatically, reaching a staggering 44% in Ethiopia – nearly five times the global average.

This comes alongside a catastrophic hunger crisis due to the worst drought in decades, only exacerbated by the global food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.

It is estimated that one person is likely dying every 48 seconds in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. In Somalia, where a “risk of famine” was recently declared, nearly half the population – over seven million people – face acute hunger. 

Against this backdrop, food billionaires have increased their collective wealth by $382bn since 2020. Less than two weeks’ worth of their wealth gains would be more than enough to fund the entirety of the US$6.2 billion UN appeal for East Africa, which is currently woefully funded at a mere 16 percent.

Jim Clarken, CEO of Oxfam Ireland, said: “A huge amount of wealth is being captured at the top of our global food supply chains, meanwhile, decades of progress on ending extreme poverty are now in reverse and millions of people are facing impossible rises in the cost of simply staying alive.

“This fundamentally broken global food system – one that is exploitative, extractive, poorly regulated and largely in the hands of big agribusinesses – is becoming unsustainable for people and the planet and is pushing millions in East Africa and worldwide to starvation.

“We need to reimagine a new global food system to really end hunger; one that works for everyone. Governments can and must mobilise enough resources to prevent human suffering.”

People in East Africa spend as much as 60 per cent of their income on food, and the region over-relies on imported staple food. For example, food and beverages account for 54 percent of Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Ethiopia, compared to just 11 percent in Ireland. While many people in affluent countries are struggling with the increased consumer prices, their counterparts in East African countries are facing hunger and destitution.

  • In Somalia, maize prices were six times higher (78%) than global prices (12.9%) in May 2022 than they were 12 months before. In some regions, the minimum food basket expenditure has soared to over 160% compared to last year. The cost of one kilo of sorghum – a staple food – was more than 240% higher than the five-year average.  
  • In Ethiopia, food inflation soared by 43.9% since last year. Cereals prices increased by 70% in the year to May, more than double the global increase 
  • In Kenya, the price of maize flour, the main staple, has doubled in seven months and rose by 50% in just a month (between June and July 2022). Rising food and energy prices will increase poverty by 2.5 percent, pushing about 1.4 million Kenyans into extreme poverty.
  • In South Sudan cereals prices in May were triple their levels a year earlier, while the price of bread has doubled since last year. The average price of cereals has been higher than 30% of the five-year average.

Global food prices have hit a 50-year high and worldwide there are now 828 million people going hungry – 150 million more than at the start of the COVID pandemic. The Ukraine conflict has caused a huge spike in grain and energy prices but these have only worsened what was already an inflationary trend. This means, even when food is available, millions cannot afford to buy it.

Clarken continued: “To help countries enduring the hunger crisis cope with rising food prices, rich nations must immediately cancel debt for those countries – which has doubled over the last decade – in order to enable them to free resources to deal with the skyrocketing prices and to import needed grains.

“To end the root causes of hunger, world leaders must better regulate food markets and ensure more flexible international trade rules in favor of the world’s most vulnerable consumers, workers and farmers. Governments and donors should support small-scale farmers who in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa provide more than 70% of the food supply.”

ENDS

CONTACT: Alice Dawson Lyons | +353 (0) 83 198 1869 | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org

 Notes to the Editor 

  • Food inflation over the last year in Ethiopia (44%,) Somalia (15%), and Kenya (12%) is exceeding the G7 (10%) and global average (9%). 
  • One year food inflation up until May 2022 for Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Somalia was sourced from Trading Economics. The G7 average from the OECD (up to May 2022) and the global average from the ILO (the latest data available is up to March 2022).  
  • Data on food and agriculture billionaire wealth was drawn from Oxfam’s Profiting from Pain report and is for the period of March 2020 to March 2022. Two-weeks increase in food billionaires' wealth would correspond to $7.3 billion.
  • In Kenya, the price of maize flour, the main staple, doubled in seven months (KES 108 in Nov 2021 for 2kg packet; KES 210 in July 2022).  
  • As of 12 July 22, only $982 million of the total $6.2 billion UN appeal for Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and South Sudan (both HRP and FA) has been funded. This is a gap of 84%. Source: UN OCHA Appeals and response plans 2022 | Financial Tracking Service (unocha.org).
  • Grain prices are from FAO’s Food Price Monitoring and Analysis tool for May 2021-May 2022; and FAO’s Food Price Monitoring and Analysis Bulletin #5, 15 June 2022
  • Oxfam, together with partners is supporting the most vulnerable people in East Africa with lifesaving food, cash assistance and water and sanitation services. It aims to reach over 1.3 million of the most vulnerable people. 
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Irish humanitarian aid agencies express disappointment at today’s outcome of UNSC vote to maintain Türkiye (Turkey) and Northwest Syria border crossing, for delivery of aid for another six months only.

Issue 12th July 2022

Four Irish aid agencies (Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland, GOAL and World Vision Ireland) have acknowledged the UN Security Council vote to keep the vital and only remaining border aid crossing between Türkiye and Northwest Syria open for another six months, until 10th Jan 2023.

However, the agencies say the fact the agreement was only to keep the border crossing open for six-months makes it difficult to plan for the level of critical aid that is now required.

“This still means huge uncertainty for the 4.1 million people trapped in Northwest Syria already living in appalling misery and dependent on food, medical care and shelter, delivered by way of the border crossing.“ the agencies said in a joint statement.

The aid agencies appreciated the diplomacy shown by the Irish Government (as an elected member of the Security Council for the 2021-22 term) to seek an extension of the border mechanism for a further twelve months, which would have provided a more stable solution.

“While we welcome the fact that for now vital humanitarian aid can still be delivered through the one remaining border crossing at Bab al-Hawa, a more long-term solution is required” the statement said.

ENDS

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Irish humanitarian aid agencies appeal to UN Security Council to keep vital Syria – Türkiye (Turkey) border crossing open

Photo: Goal Global

July 5th 2022

Five Irish aid agencies (Trocaire, Oxfam Ireland, Concern, GOAL and World Vision Ireland) today called on the UN Security Council to vote to keep a vital border crossing between Syria and Türkiye (Turkey) open to allow for lifesaving aid to reach millions in need.

The agencies say the July 7th vote on the border crossing is critical for the lives and well-being of 4.1 million people trapped in northwest Syria, where humanitarian needs are at their highest since the conflict started 11 years ago.

Millions of Syrians are completely dependent on humanitarian aid to survive, especially those who have been displaced by the conflict. 80% of those in need are women and children and over 3.2 million people are food insecure and need food assistance.

The UN Security Council, of which Ireland is currently a member, established a cross-border resolution in 2014 which allowed for four crossings for humanitarian aid delivery. Since 2020, this has been whittled down to one crossing which allows humanitarian aid to reach Syrians in need.  

Speaking on behalf of the five aid agencies, Mary Van Lieshout, Director of External Affairs, GOAL, said: “The priority must be the delivery of humanitarian aid to families who need it in the most direct and efficient way. Bab al-Hawa is now the sole border crossing point for humanitarian operations into Idleb and Aleppo in northwest Syria and it must be protected.

“If humanitarian organisations are unable to operate cross-border when humanitarian needs are rising rapidly there will be a disastrous deterioration in living conditions.

“We urge the UN Security Council to renew Resolution 2585 on cross-border aid to northwest Syria. Failure to renew the resolution will immediately disrupt lifesaving aid operations, plunging people in northwest Syria into even more appalling misery, threatening access to food, medical care, and shelter. This is a humanitarian and moral imperative,” continued Mary Van Lieshout.

Since the resolution came into effect in 2014, millions of Syrians have benefitted from UN-led cross-border assistance despite continued insecurity, conflict, and access constraints. In 2021, the cross-border humanitarian response enabled aid agencies to reach over 2.4 million people per month in the northwest. This provided food for 1.8 million people, nutrition assistance for 85,000 people, education support for 78,000 children, access to life-saving dignity kits for 250,000 women and girls and critical medical items and supplies to help people survive the cold winter months.

For further information, please see https://www.un.org/press/en/2022/sc14954.doc.htm

To organise an interview, please contact Jane Curtin, Comms Manager, GOAL. Tel.: 087 938 0779

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

Humanitarian needs in northwest Syria

  • In northwest Syria, 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, which represents an increase from 3.4 million in 2021.
  • This population remains in areas that can only be reached with lifesaving assistance that is delivered cross-border.
  • 2.8 million of the Syrian population residing in the northwest are IDPs, and 1.7 million of them live in camps or informal settlements.
  • People living in camps often lack adequate shelter, infrastructure, protection, and basic services including water, sanitation, and healthcare.
  • Over 70% of the population are food insecure in northwest Syria (3.1 million out of 4.4 million people)
  • In northwest Syria, people are particularly impacted by the crisis in Ukraine because they are largely dependent on humanitarian food aid and imports from Turkey. Turkey imports 78% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia so any potential price increases or wheat shortages in Turkey are likely to affect Syria’s northwest.
  • The price of essential food items in northwest Syria has already increased up to 22% and 67% (varies by region) since the start of the conflict in Ukraine.

Humanitarian needs across Syria

  • 14.6 million people require help to meet their basic survival needs.
  • Over 12 million people are still acutely food insecure.
  • Up to 80% of those internally displaced are women and girls.
  • Over half of those in camps across Syria are under the age of 18 years.
  • 2021 saw the worst drought in 70 years, affecting access to drinking water, electricity generation and irrigation water for millions of Syrians.
  • The water crisis crippled the harvest in 2021, which is likely to exacerbate food security throughout 2022 and beyond.
  • Price increases on essentials including food, water, and transportation means that Syrians are not able to afford the basics they need and there are little or no adequate public services to support them.
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