Over Two Million Syrians in Need of Aid as Winter Approaches

Deputy Assistant Secretary Clements Addresses the Syria Humanitarian Forum
Deputy Assistant Secretary Clements Addresses the Syria Humanitarian Forum

Syria Humanitarian Forum

U.S. Statement

Kelly T. Clements
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
for Population, Refugees and Migration

Geneva, Switzerland

November 9, 2012

Thank you Mr. Chair. Thank you to the United Nations and the European Commission for hosting this event.  We appreciate the detail provided in the presentations this morning. It is clear that humanitarian needs and displacement within Syria have grown exponentially since the Humanitarian Forum last met two months ago.  The humanitarian situation in Syria is dire.  Significantly more than one million people are displaced and at least double that number needs humanitarian assistance.  Nearly 400,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries.  Addressing winter needs is a key concern.

We strongly support the UN’s humanitarian response to the Syria crisis and appreciate UN-OCHA’s important coordinating role.  We urge all donors to coordinate closely with OCHA in delivering assistance.

We especially respect and value all the humanitarian aid workers inside Syria who are putting their safety in jeopardy.  Five Syrian Arab Red Crescent workers and five staff from UNRWA have been killed since March 2011.  As the Deputy Commissioner General noted, the most recent casualty, a 45 year old UNRWA teacher, occurred on November 3.  Palestinian refugees were also killed and injured.  We extend our condolences to the family and friends of all who have given their lives in support of the humanitarian mission, and we condemn in the strongest terms these deaths and other serious violations of international law by any party in Syria.

We sincerely regret the failure of the Eid ceasefire.  Humanitarian partners were poised to send thousands of per-positioned emergency aid packages to families in previously inaccessible areas of Syria, but violence prevented deliveries in some areas.  Nonetheless, we commend UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and other partners for making some progress in delivering food and family kits that included mattresses, quilts, winter clothes, kitchen sets, and other essential items to Homs, south Hassakeh, al Raqqa and Aleppo.

We urgently call upon all parties to allow aid to reach the communities and people most in need and to expand the number of humanitarian organizations authorized to deliver aid.

In addition, the United States is deeply concerned about reports that medical facilities are being targeted by the Syrian Government and others.  Innocent women, men, and children are being deliberately targeted in Syria, even while standing in breadlines.  We deplore such actions.  As a matter of humanitarian principle, we stand firm in our conviction that all parties to the conflict must allow humanitarian access, especially access to injured and sick people in need of medical assistance, and must protect medical personnel and facilities.

We appreciate the UN’s acknowledgement that the humanitarian community needs regular comprehensive assessments of humanitarian needs and better reporting so that donors can make decisions on providing additional assistance and look forward to the results of upcoming assessments in Syria.  I think we have a much better idea, after this morning’s presentations, which critical needs are not currently being met either because of a lack of access or because of funding shortfalls.

With respect to funding shortfalls, we call on participants in this forum and the wider international community to do all they can.  The current funding levels of 45% to the UN response plan in Syria and of only 35% to the regional response plan cannot adequately address the growing humanitarian requirements.

I am pleased to announce that the United States is providing more than $34 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria.  This brings the total amount of U.S. humanitarian assistance in response to this crisis to more than $165 million for populations within Syria as well as those in neighboring countries.

This new funding from the United States will help keep families and children warm during the coming winter by providing warm clothes, blankets, heating stoves, and heavy-duty plastic sheeting to cover windows and other damaged areas of buildings housing for those displaced inside Syria.  We are also providing funding for winterization efforts in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

A portion of these funds will be used to protect children, by providing psychosocial support and education, as well as activities to prevent gender-based violence.  This additional funding will support an immunization campaign that will help protect up to 1 million children in Syria from measles and other preventable diseases.  We are also increasing support for the massive logistical operation that allows life-saving aid to be delivered when and where possible in Syria.  Finally, this funding will also support the humanitarian transport of wounded Syrians from the Lebanon-Syrian border to medical facilities in Lebanon so they can receive the medical attention they need.

We recognize and applaud the generosity of the governments and people of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, who continue to keep their borders open to those fleeing the violence, and we express appreciation to all countries, including Iraq as well as countries in North Africa and Europe that are increasingly hosting and providing assistance to these vulnerable populations.  These countries have taken on a significant burden by hosting those displaced by the violence in Syria, in addition to existing refugee populations.  But they are not alone in responding to the humanitarian needs of those affected by this crisis.  The United States and the international community will 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 victims of conflict in Syria.

Even as we watch the escalating violence that has created this humanitarian emergency, the United States affirms its commitment to helping alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people.

Thank you.