A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
Star calls on international community to urgently find a solution to the Syria Crisis
Oxfam Global Ambassador and Hollywood actor Gael García Bernal has taken time out from filming on location in Jordan to meet Syrian refugees.
The star, who was born in Mexico and has starred in six Academy Award-nominated films including Babel and The Motorcycle Diaries, visited refugee families living in the outskirts of the capital Amman, with the international aid agency Oxfam. Bernal has been filming in Jordan since mid-June for his new film, Rosewater, directed by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.
He stopped off to talk to the El Masry family from Saida, a village on the outskirts of Dera’a currently living in a house in Safut. A total of 15 people are living in this house after they had to flee from Syria six months ago when their neighborhood became a battle zone. They told Bernal of the trauma they witnessed and how to this day their children are suffering from nightmares.
A solution is urgently needed
Bernal is now calling on world leaders to find an urgent solution to the Syria crisis.
Bernal said: “For more than two and a half years, Syrians have been fleeing from the deadly conflict in their home country, where an average of at least 5,000 people are killed every month.
“In a few days’ time, the number of Syrian refugees will reach the two million mark. I have met a few of them in Jordan, with Oxfam, where they are struggling to live with dignity using the few resources available to them.
“I’ve met families living in crammed rented houses and tents where they struggle to make ends meet.
“Aid is essential for these people. There’s not enough coming, despite the promises from the international community. And, more importantly, the people I met want peace - they want to return to their home country to rebuild their future. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is and help these people whose only dream is to return to life in their own country.”
Emergency relief effort
Bernal also visited a community of more than 100 Syrian refugee families living in tents on a farm on the outskirts of Amman. Oxfam is providing these families with cash support, so they can buy items such as medicines, food, clothes as they need. Oxfam has also provided water filters to ensure families can drink clean water.
The Mexican actor also spent time with Syrian refugees currently volunteering with Oxfam as community facilitators distributing vouchers to families to buy hygiene items such as soap and washing powder.
Around 80 per cent of the more than 1.8m Syrian refugees who have fled to neighboring countries are living outside camps either in informal settlements – mainly tents – or high-cost rented accommodation.
Oxfam’s Claire Seaward, who joined Gael Garcia Bernal on the trip, said: “The families Gael met are really struggling against the odds. They arrived in Jordan shell-shocked and with very little. Now, like so many, they are gradually starting to rebuild their lives.
Commitment and action needed for peace
“The number of refugees who have fled Syria climbs each day. This crisis is on a staggering scale. There is no more time to lose – the Syrian conflict has claimed more than 100,000 lives already.
“Last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to plan a peace conference. Similar promises have come and gone without any noticeable action. Calls for peace must now be supported by commitment and action.”
In Jordan, Oxfam is also working in Za'atari refugee camp - providing people with water and sanitation facilities. The organisation has recently completed shower, toilet and laundry blocks and is also coordinating hygiene training to prevent the spread of life-threatening diseases. Oxfam has also held hygiene lessons with children and a tile-painting project giving them the chance to decorate the tiles in the wash blocks.
Earlier this year, Oxfam launched an appeal for $57.6 million to fund its humanitarian response in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria to help more than 650,000 people over the next 12 months. The organisation is keen to scale up its response but currently the appeal is just 28 per cent funded. To donate to Oxfam’s appeal visit http://www.oxfam.org/en/syria-appeal
Notes to editors
- Footage is available from the AP Entertainment Feed.
- Pictures of Gael Garcia Bernal’s visit can be downloaded from: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.uk/?c=14486&k=eeb88b4ae6
- Gael Garcia Bernal is not available for interview but to interview Oxfam’s Claire Seaward or for more information please contact Karl Schembri on +962 79062 5217
Karl Schembri on +962 79062 5217