U.S. Delegation to the Syrian Humanitarian Forum
July 16, 2012
Thank you to the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for hosting this event. As the Humanitarian Forum convenes today, the United States is deeply concerned by the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria. More than 100,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries and up to 500,000 people are displaced within Syria. An estimated 1.5 million individuals now require humanitarian assistance inside the country, and humanitarian needs will only grow as the fighting continues.
We are grateful for the exceptional work of humanitarian organizations and those who work with them in Syria and surrounding countries who spare no effort to deliver assistance to civilians impacted by the conflict. When we last met, the Syrian government and the United Nations had come to an agreement on the humanitarian response plan and made a series of commitments to move forward. We urged their immediate implementation. We thank OCHA for its update on its efforts to expand the delivery of humanitarian aid, but we remain concerned that significant numbers of Syrians remain beyond the reach of humanitarian agencies. All too often, the security situation does not permit access to communities in need. We have also heard from partners that they are facing worrying resource constraints. It is worth reflecting on both of these challenges in greater detail.
Inside Syria, lack of access due to violence by all parties remains the number one limiting factor for humanitarian assistance. International humanitarian agencies simply are unable to reach those most in need. We urge all parties to facilitate unimpeded access to affected areas and populations for humanitarian agencies, including the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, to enable humanitarian assistance to reach individuals in need. As a prerequisite for humanitarian access, it is essential that all parties respect the impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian workers who daily risk their lives to save others. We condemn the July 10 killing of a fifth Syrian Arab Red Crescent member in Deir az-Zor, a volunteer who lost his life assisting others while wearing a uniform clearly marked with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent emblem. We extend our condolences to the family and friends of all humanitarian workers who have given their lives in support of the humanitarian mission, and condemn those who have perpetrated such repugnant attacks.
In addition, the United States takes this opportunity to highlight the particular problem of access to medical care. We note credible reports that individuals presenting themselves at hospitals and government-run health facilities have faced abuse from regime forces. We call upon the Government of Syria to allow universal access to medical care and health facilities inside Syria, ensuring unbiased, equitable, and safe treatment for all Syrians.
With respect to funding shortfalls, we call on participants in this forum to do all they can. The current funding level of 21% to the UN response plan cannot sustain adequate levels of humanitarian assistance and will not allow a rapid scale-up of humanitarian activities should access improve. It is essential that donors do their utmost to guarantee that the humanitarian response does not falter for lack of funds. Now is the time to step forward and provide resources, especially in light of the revised UN response plan. We particularly encourage countries who have not yet contributed to the UN response plan to do so. For our part, I am pleased to announce that the United States is providing over $6 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria. This brings the total amount of U.S. assistance this year to nearly $64 million for populations within Syria as well as those in neighboring countries.
Additionally, it is crucial that aid agencies provide more detailed reporting on the impact of existing humanitarian activities. Improved monitoring and analysis in reporting on the various elements of the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan will go a long way to ensure donors that funds are making a difference in the lives of conflict-impacted individuals both inside Syria and in neighboring countries.
Turning to the regional response, we recognize the generosity of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, who are hosting and providing assistance to those fleeing the violence. These countries have taken on a significant financial burden by hosting those displaced by the violence in Syria, in addition to other refugee populations they have hosted for years. The international community will stand by these countries during this difficult time, and we urge that all of the neighboring countries continue to welcome those seeking refuge from the horrific violence taking place in Syria. We continue to support the important work that our international and non-governmental organization partners carry out in the region to provide aid and services to this vulnerable population.
As the violence that has created this humanitarian emergency escalates, we affirm our commitment to helping alleviate the resulting suffering of the Syrian people. Until the violence ceases, the international community must continue to provide support to the humanitarian organizations who are delivering assistance where it is most needed inside and outside Syria, and to demand the cooperation of the Syrian government and opposition forces in all humanitarian assistance efforts.