Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
As this Humanitarian Forum is convened today, we acknowledge the exceptional work and sacrifice of humanitarian organizations and individuals in Syria and surrounding countries. This forum has become an important mechanism through which we can highlight areas of particular humanitarian concern, share information among humanitarian organizations, affected countries and donors regarding both operations and contributions, and maintain and strengthen the support of the Syrian government for humanitarian relief operations in Syria.
We understand the Syrian government and OCHA have come to an agreement on the response plan and have made a series of commitments as we’ve heard this morning. We urge their immediate implementation. We remain deeply concerned about the existing humanitarian situation in the country and the potential for that situation to worsen.
In recent weeks, the UN has made limited progress in expanding the humanitarian space within Syria, but there is more we and the Syrian government need to do to assist them in their efforts. International humanitarian agencies that have the resources to assist conflict-affected Syrians are still not able to reach those most in need. All parties, including the Syrian government, have the responsibility to grant and secure meaningful access. With that in mind, we call on the government of Syria to 1) issue visas and other necessary paperwork for international humanitarian staff urgently needed in Syria, especially those for UN staff who will deploy to Homs, Idlib, Daraa and Deir az-Zour; 2) provide the necessary permissions and facilitation for the UN to deploy to its proposed four field locations as soon as possible; 3) immediately provide freedom of movement and blanket authorization for OCHA to deliver assistance wherever it is needed, without the need for bureaucratic approval for each delivery; and 4) immediately permit and facilitate the operation of additional NGOs within Syria in coordination with SARC and the UN. We believe there is currently space for a significant number of additional local and international NGOs to meet humanitarian needs within Syria.
We also call on the rest of the participants in this forum to do all that is necessary to ensure those targets are met, both in terms of their work with the Syrian government and in their flexibility in providing resources. The Syrian government has agreed to the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, which is a step forward. It is essential that all donors do their utmost to guarantee that our humanitarian response does not falter for lack of funds. Donors must step forward and provide resources now; the current funding level of 20% to the UN response plan cited by OCHA is unacceptable. We particularly encourage other countries who are not typical contributors to join and support the response plan to address these significant needs. Displaced families need food and hygiene kits and other essential items; schools need to be rehabilitated; child-friendly spaces should be established; psycho-social counseling is in short supply. Medical facilities are deteriorating. We call on all countries in this room to find resources quickly and contribute to the Syria humanitarian response plan.
Today I am pleased to announce that United States is providing an additional $12.8 million to ICRC and non-governmental organizations to bolster the humanitarian response, bringing the total amount of U.S. assistance in 2012 to just over $52 million. These funds will benefit populations within Syria with much-needed emergency health care and services to help innocent children, women and men cope with the trauma of living in the midst of ongoing violent conflict. Additionally, NGOs in Lebanon and Jordan will provide displaced Syrians with health and psychosocial services, shelter rehabilitation, and other humanitarian assistance.
We recognize the generosity of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, who are hosting and providing assistance to those fleeing the violence. These countries have taken on a significant financial burden by hosting those displaced by the violence in Syria, in addition to other refugee populations they have hosted for years. We continue to support the important work that our international and non-governmental organization partners carry out in the region to mitigate the suffering of those affected.
It is our deepest hope that the violence that has created this humanitarian emergency will end, and with it the suffering of the Syrian people. Until that happens, the international community must continue to provide support to the humanitarian organizations who are delivering assistance where it is most needed inside and outside Syria, and to demand the cooperation of the Syrian government in all humanitarian assistance efforts.