U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Those Affected by the Conflict in Syria
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
Kelly Clements, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration; and Mark Bartolini, Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance
MS. CLEMENTS: Thank you, Maria. As you may know, more than a 117- to 125,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries. Everyday more are crossing borders seeking safety. And in the course of just one night, nearly 1,300 Syrians arrived at Turkish camps, and there are now reports of upwards of 8,500 Syrians who crossed the border into Lebanon in the last 24 hours.
For this reason, our support is crucial to ensuring that basic needs are being met. The governments of Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon, as Maria said, have borne a significant financial burden, and we commend them for their generosity, but they are not alone. We were pleased to announce during the Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva earlier this week that the United States is providing an additional $6 million to bolster the humanitarian response for this crisis. This brings the total amount of U.S. assistance in 2012 to nearly $64 million and more is coming.
Our approach is to work through international organizations. This strengthens our ability to deliver humanitarian assistance because these organizations had staff and infrastructure in Syria and neighboring countries prior to the start of the conflict, which can be well-utilized in current efforts with the civilians in need. Humanitarian assistance is provided on the basis of need, not political affiliation, and is being distributed to the most vulnerable through UN agencies and other international and local nongovernmental organizations.
Working together, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and ICRC, as well as UNICEF, World Food Program, UNHCR, and UNRRA, and other international and local NGOs. 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 SARC, to enable humanitarian assistance to reach individuals in need.
As a prerequisite for humanitarian assistance, it is essential that all parties respect the impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian workers who daily risk their lives to save others. And we condemn the recent killing of a fifth Syrian Arab Red Crescent member, a volunteer who lost his life assisting others while wearing a uniform clearly marked with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent emblem. We will continue our support for those affected by the violence in Syria, even as we look forward to the day when all Syrians can live in a free, democratic country.
And I’ll now turn it over to my USAID colleague, Mark Bartolini, for some comments, and then we’ll take your questions.