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U.S. Urges Donors to Fulfill Aid Pledges for Syria
March 20, 2013

A Syrian boy attends class at the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
March 19, 2013

The United States is urging other donor countries to quickly honor their pledges to fund lifesaving assistance to more than 1 million Syrian refugees, says Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

“We are facing a resource crisis,” Richard told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, with no end to violence in Syria in sight. Even if Syria’s current regime falls soon, “displacement and the need for humanitarian aid will continue,” she testified March 19. She said that even if refugees are not able to return to their homes in Syria for years, host countries will need to continue to help Syrian children in schools and help Syrian families with medical and other public services.

So far, the United Nations Regional Response Plan for Syria has received just 21 percent of the funds it needs to operate in 2013, Richard said. Donors pledged $1.5 billion in funding for Syrian humanitarian aid at an international donors conference hosted by the Emir of Kuwait in January.

The United States is the largest donor of emergency assistance for those affected by violence in Syria, USAID Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg told the subcommittee. So far, she said, the United States has contributed $385 million in emergency assistance including food, shelters, medical care, psychological support and protection services to Syrians living inside Syria and in neighboring countries. The assistance also helps Palestinians who lived in Syria before the start of the conflict. U.S. funds are administered by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“The United States is fully committed to standing with and supporting the Syrian people,” she said. She said U.S. funding “is not just a pledge; it is being put to work on the ground every day, in some of the areas affected by the worst violence, including Idlib, Aleppo and Dar’a.”

Lindborg said U.S. assistance has provided a “lifeline” to more than 2.4 million people in Syria since the violence began more than two years ago.

Lindborg said the United States works through “all channels” to ensure that U.S. assistance reaches people in all 14 of Syria’s governorates. Those channels include U.N. agencies, international organizations and local Syrian networks— “humanitarians who risk their lives daily to provide aid inside Syria, including the generous and brave Syrians who are sheltering family and helping those in their communities every day.” About 60 percent of U.S. aid reaches people located in contested and opposition-held areas, she said.USAID support for the U.N. World Food Programme provides monthly food rations to nearly 1.5 million people in Syria and another 300,000 refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. USAID medical support includes essential supplies and drugs, trauma training for doctors, and aid to hospitals and mobile clinics.

U.S. support includes blankets, heaters, clean water, sanitation and warm clothes, Lindborg said.

Richard said the United States, in addition to coordinating its response with other donor nations and the U.N., is deepening its coordination with the Syrian Opposition Coalition’s Assistance Coordination unit and is encouraging U.N. agencies and other partners to do the same.

Lindborg said key challenges remain. The United States and its international partners need greater access across borders so they can reach vulnerable groups of Syrians. They also need more security to protect humanitarian aid workers and recipients, she said.

Testifying before the subcommittee, Tom Malinowski of the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said the United States should give more aid to private relief groups that provide cross-border assistance and press the U.N. General Assembly to authorize U.N. agencies to provide cross-border aid to opposition-held areas.

Lindborg said it is important to continue giving aid. “Without our continued, full-fledged humanitarian response, the Syrian people may not have the opportunity to realize their democratic aspirations and see their struggle through,” she said. “We must also continue to support the governments and people of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and other nations who are so generously hosting refugees fleeing Syria to help ensure these nations can maintain open borders.”