The Middle East sits on a precipice as conflicts and politics take their toll

Posted by Christina Corbett Humanitarian Press Officer

13th Aug 2014

There are over 28 million people who need humanitarian aid in the Middle East, nearly half the UK population, Oxfam says today.

The figures drawn from Iraq, Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen show the scale of the humanitarian crisis in the region. The warning comes as the DEC continues its Gaza Crisis Appeal, which has already raised more than £7 million.

Jane Cocking, Oxfam's Humanitarian Director said: "In my entire career, I've never seen so much need in the Middle East. The crisis across the region has escalated over the last five weeks with the outbreak of conflict in Gaza and increasing violence in Iraq. There are six year olds in Gaza living through their third war, pregnant women seeking shelter in the desert and people living in fear for their lives.

"The role of humanitarian agencies is keeping people - and hope - alive. It is also about getting them back on their feet. This is becoming more and more difficult while we wait for the politics of these crises to get sorted out. There has never been a greater need for us to work with local partners and find long-term solutions to the problems."

In Gaza about 900,000 people - half the population - have no or extremely restricted access to running water. In Syria almost one million people remain without safe drinking water, in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius. In Iraq 1.5 million people are in need of humanitarian help.

"We have people fleeing Syria escaping to Iraq, but in Iraq we have people fleeing their homes and moving towards Syria. There is a complete breakdown of these countries' borders," Cocking said.

Yemen, which has not had so much news coverage, has got 14.7 million people in need. Over 10.5 million people - nearly half of Yemen's total population - do not have enough food to eat and 13 million people do not have access to safe water and sanitation.

Cocking said: "Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world and is in the midst of a chronic and deepening crisis. More than half the population is in desperate need of clean water, food and access to basic services. In some areas 100 per cent of households have fallen into debt to feed their families and fuel shortages risk bringing the country's economy to a halt."

Across the Middle East Oxfam provides water, sanitation, food and cash transfers to help people in need. Oxfam is also working elsewhere in the world to meet emergency need, including South Sudan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

Oxfam responded to 24 humanitarian emergencies last year, reaching 6.1 million people.  

Oxfam is a member of the Disaster Emergencies Committee, which is appealing for public funds to support its DEC Gaza Crisis Appeal. To make a donation visit www.dec.org.uk, call the 24 hour hotline on 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office, or send a cheque. You can also donate £5 by texting the word SUPPORT to 70000.

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For more information or to arrange an interview contact Christina Corbett on ccorbett@oxfam.org.uk / 07557 483758 or Lucy Brinicombe on lbrinicombe@oxfam.org.uk / 07786 110054.

Note to Editors:

Total number of people in need of humanitarian aid in the Middle East: 28.8 million
Number of people needing humanitarian aid in:
Gaza: 1.8 million
Iraq: 1.5 million
Syria, Jordan and Lebanon: 10.8 million
Yemen: 14.7 million

Figures sourced from UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)

Blog post written by Christina Corbett

Humanitarian Press Officer

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