By Jane Morse
IIP Staff Writer
08 January 2014
As violence in Syria enters its third year, the needs of its refugees — and of neighboring countries providing them refuge — are greater than ever, U.S. officials say, and the United States is supporting international efforts to provide aid.
More than 9.3 million people — more than 40 percent of Syria’s population — require humanitarian assistance, according to Nancy Lindborg, an assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“In just the last year, the number of people displaced inside Syria has quadrupled from 1.5 million to more than 6.5 million,” she said at a January 7 hearing of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights.
“More Syrians are now internally displaced from their homes than anywhere else in the world. An additional 2.3 million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries in search of safety,” Lindborg said.
Although the governments and citizens of neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey have welcomed Syrian refugees, their generosity is being strained to the limits, according to Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.
Testifying with Lindborg at the hearing, Richard said the governments of Syria’s neighbors are concerned that they must stretch the services they provide to their own citizens to reach the overwhelming numbers of vulnerable refugees living in their countries.
“Schools have moved to double shifts to accommodate Syrian children,” Richard said. “Hospital beds are filled by Syrian patients. Rents have risen and wages have fallen as a result of the competition for housing and jobs. There are water shortages in Jordan and Lebanon.”
The State Department and USAID are major funders of the top humanitarian organizations responding to the crisis, Richard said, providing more than $1.3 billion in assistance to date.
Richard said that among the U.N. agencies and nongovernmental organizations working with U.S. support to aid Syrian refugees are the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the U.N. World Food Programme, UNICEF and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
“Together, these agencies and others are providing food, clean water, shelter, medical care and other basic essentials,” Richard said. “They also go beyond these basic needs and seek to protect the most vulnerable members of Syrian society today — displaced children, at-risk women and girls, the elderly and the disabled — from threats as diverse as cold winters, unsafe play areas, poor sanitation, child marriage and violence against women and girls.”
In December 2013, Valerie Amos, the U.N. under secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, announced the largest-ever appeal for a single humanitarian emergency: $6.5 billion for Syria and neighboring countries in 2014. The U.N., Richard said, “has worked to make the appeals cost-efficient and high-impact, as well to provide benchmarks to help donors track progress of the refugee response. We are reviewing the appeals now and discussing with partners and other donors the best ways to support these efforts.”
The Syrian people, despite their suffering under the Assad regime, will have their chance to forge their own future, said President Obama in remarks he delivered from the White House via a video January 29, 2013.
“The relief we send doesn’t say ‘Made in America,’ but make no mistake — our aid reflects the commitment of the American people,” Obama said. The Syrian people “will continue to find a partner in the United States of America.”