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Statement by OFDA Director Bartolini at Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva
September 7, 2012

Syria Humanitarian Forum
Statement by Mark Bartolini
Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, USAID
September 7, 2012

Thank you to the United Nations, the European Union, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for hosting this event.  Since we began these meetings, the humanitarian situation has continued to worsen.

The United States remains committed to working through international and local humanitarian partners to help alleviate the suffering of those affected by the crisis.

We are grateful for the exceptional work of these partners and we have seen how they have spared no effort and made terrible sacrifices to deliver assistance to civilians suffering Asad’s brutality.  Providing aid in the middle of a conflict is incredibly difficult, and heroic efforts and terrible sacrifices happen every day to help the innocent people caught in the the violence.  U.S. humanitarian assistance has reached every conflict zone in Syria, and it is having a positive impact despite the difficult conditions and limited humanitarian access.

Months ago, the Syrian government and the United Nations agreed on the humanitarian response plan and made a series of commitments to move forward.  These commitments have mostly gone unfulfilled, as access is delayed and denied and the fighting intensifies.

All parties must facilitate unimpeded access to affected areas and populations.  We call upon the Syrian Government to allow aid to reach the communities and people most in need and to expand the number of humanitarian organizations authorized to deliver aid.

Insecurity delays or blockades restrict the movements of staff and life-saving relief supplies and constrain access.  Military operations, violence and kidnappings are limiting the ability to provide assistance in active conflict areas.

Civilians are being deliberately targeted in Syria, and aid workers are no exception.  We have heard numerous stories of aid workers being harassed, captured, even killed.

We commend Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq for keeping their borders open and for generously hosting and providing assistance to those fleeing the violence.  We urge these countries to continue welcoming those seeking refuge from the horrific violence of the Asad regime.  In addition to other refugee populations they have hosted for years, these nations have taken on an unsustainable financial burden by hosting those displaced by the violence in Syria.  These countries should not have to bear this burden alone, and the international community must stand by them during this difficult time.

We continue to support the vital work that international and non-governmental organization humanitarian partners carry out in the region to provide aid and services to this vulnerable population.

But the humanitarian organizations selflessly working to save lives are facing unacceptable resource constraints.  All participants in this forum must do more, must take this crisis seriously, and must greatly increase their material and financial contributions to the coordinated international humanitarian response.  The Syria and Regional response plans are currently funded at about half of what is needed for life-saving relief, the need is growing, and winter is coming.  Without major and rapid additional contributions, people will die and refugee-hosting countries will not be able to continue to care for new arrivals.

With this in mind, the United States announced an additional contribution of assistance to feed displaced Syrians inside and outside Syria; this brings our assistance to date to more than $100 million dollars.  The United States will continue to stand by the people of Syria, and we will seek all opportunities to provide humanitarian assistance when and where access allows.

We call on every nation represented at this meeting to do whatever is necessary to increase contributions to the humanitarian response commensurate with the increasing needs.  The needs are enormous, national budgets are tight.  But we are talking about life-saving assistance to the innocent civilian victims of violence.  They are depending on us.

Donors who have contributed must give more.  Winterization, vaccination will be essential to save lives.  Countries who have not yet contributed to the UN response plans should do so now.

We must support the courageous humanitarian actors who are bringing relief to the victims in every way possible and delivering assistance where it is most needed inside and outside Syria.  The situation inside Syria is complicated and chaotic, but our humanitarian obligations are straightforward: give these courageous and dedicated humanitarian organizations, and the countries who have kept their borders open to receive the victims, the resources they need to save innocent lives.

Thank you.