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US Responds to Refugee Crisis Unfolding in Syria

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With the continuing violence engulfing Syria, the United States of America today outlined efforts to address the humanitarian and refugee catastrophe unfolding in Syria and Middle East.

In her remarks in SIP Event: Syria's Humanitarian Crisis
at Anaheim,California, Assistant Secretary Anne C. Richard for Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration reveals the approach of her bureau in the State Department and colleagues at USAID in response to the crisis.

She notes the US is the leading donor to aid operations in response to the crisis and is currently providing $385 million to respond to the growing humanitarian needs in Syria and in neighboring countries.

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U.S. soldiers maintaining Patriot missile batteries near Gaziantep, Turkey in February 2013. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
With this support, international and non-governmental organizations, called NGOs, have brought emergency medical care, food, shelter, and household supplies to victims of the conflict in all of Syria's 14 governorates, she added.

Ms. Richard also notes that efforts to manage the current refugee flood and help the millions of people in need still trapped inside Syria have produced real results.

Countries open doors for Syrian refugees

Ms. Richard says neighboring countries are admitting refugees and providing aid directly or allowing international aid agencies to do so as well.

International NGOs and local NGOs are working round the clock to help and delivering aid, she said.

The United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other partner organizations are supporting Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq to manage the influx of new arrivals.

Crisis causes fefugee flood inside and outside Syria

According to Ms. Richard, tThe two year anniversary of the Syria uprising coincides with another dark milestone: over one million refugees have fled across Syria's borders into neighboring countries.

More troubling news is that half of that number arrived in the last two months, she noted.

She indicates the UN estimates that over 2.5 million people are displaced inside Syria and many more have been affected by the upheaval and fighting inside Syria.

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Doctors and medical staff treating injured rebel fighters and civilians in Aleppo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

US provides aid inside Syria

According to Ms. Richars, providing humanitarian assistance is extremely risky and the fighting hinders access to populations in need on both sides of the conflict.

"You heard me say before that aid has reached all 14 governorates, but that does not mean it reached everyone who needed it within those 14 governorates." - Ms. Richard

She says an assessment carried out in mid-January that was partly funded by the U.S. government confirmed that millions are in need.

Ms. Richard highlightes the US is pursuing all means to reach these people, working with NGOs, the UN and International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), all of whom have staff in Syria.

She reports that the ICRC and UNICEF have managed to keep clean water flowing out of taps all over Syria.

"Thanks to them, ten million people benefit. NGO partners have even managed to get clean water into the Atmeh displaced persons camp in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey- a tough place for aid to reach." - Ms. Richard

She says latrines have been constructed, pipe has been installed for a sewage system, and garbage is being collected and removed.

Challenges to providing aid are evident

Ms. Richard notes that operations inside Syria are dangerous.

She says the list of problems is daunting and includes: ongoing fighting, numerous checkpoints, various restrictions by the Syrian government, targeting of humanitarian workers and medical personnel and risks posed by extremist elements among the opposition.

Aid workers have been injured and killed, she added.

Assad regime impedes flow of aid inside Syria

Ms. Richard says that despite repeated requests by the UN to the Asad regime to allow humanitarian aid to be brought in across land borders, the regime continues to deny permission and has threatened to expel the UN and other humanitarian organizations if they attempt such operations.

On a daily basis, Ms. Richard says UN aid workers try to expand what is allowed by the government and try to get aid to those who need it, while dodging bullets and bombs.

Humanitarian workers regularly put their lives on the line to deliver assistance to those in need, she reported.

Ms. Richard cites ten members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been killed since the conflict began, and five workers with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees have paid the ultimate price.

UN committed to deliver aid

According to Ms. Richard, UN organizations have succeeded in carrying out operations with aid flown into government-controlled airports.

She cites UN has conducted three successful operations to date to cross from government-controlled areas to reach opposition-controlled areas.

However, she says it is not enough and over the coming weeks, the UN aims to conduct daily convoys delivering assistance to conflict-affected areas in Aleppo, Idlib, Homs, and Deir-ez-Zor.

US Provides $60M of Nonlethal Assistance to Syrian Opposition

Believing that the Syrian Opposition Coalition cannot successfully lead the way to a peaceful transition alone, the United States of America has pledged $60M of nonlethal assistance to the Syrian opposiiton.

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States of America will be providing an additional $60 million immediately in nonlethal assistance to support the coalition in its operational needs day to day as it continues to organize and work for the political transition that we all want to see.

The funding will allow the opposition to reach out and help the local councils to be able to rebuild in their liberated areas of Syria so that they can provide basic services to people, who often lack access today to medical care, to food, to sanitation.

In addition, the funding will help those who work within them, those without blood on their hands, to be able to continue to do their important humanitarian work.

US, Italy and Syrian Opposition Coalition United to stop Assad's war machine

While in Rome for a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi and Syrian Opposition Council Chairman Moaz al-Khatib, Secretary Kerry said the Syrian opposition is the legitimate voice of the Syrian people.

The Coalition stand in very stark contrast to the rule of Bashar al-Assad, who long ago lost his legitimacy and who is out of time and who must be out of power.

The countries are determined to find a way forward to a better day that they know awaits Syria, a day that will not come as long as Assad is in power.

US provides aid to Syria

In November 2012, the United States of America provided $30 million in additional humanitarian assistance to respond to the needs of Syrian people affected by the turmoil.

In Syria, the additional funding will allow for provision of food aid to families in need.

In neighboring countries, the additional assistance from the United States will provide food supplies, hot meals, and food vouchers for families who have fled the violence in Syria.

In addition, the additional assistance will be provided through the World Food Program (WFP), which is providing food aid to 1.5 million people in Syria and the refugees who have fled to neighboring countries.

The United States is the largest donor of food aid for those affected by the conflict in Syria through WFP.

In August 2012, with the violence engulfing Syria, the United States of America has announced an additional $12 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing the total amount of U.S. emergency aid to more than $76 million.

The U.S. government continues to place on ending the escalating violence which has uprooted hundreds of thousands of Syrians.

The humanitarian needs continue to grow whre the number of Syrians displaced to neighboring countries now exceeds 130,000, with nearly 1.5 million in need inside Syria, including UN-estimated one million internally displaced persons.

The Syrian violence has led a crisis on a humanitarian scale that is of the highest priority within the U.S. government, and for which the US pledges to continue to provide support.

In April 2012, with the deteriorating situation in Syria due to turmoil, the United States of America has bolstered efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by the conflict in the country.

The UN estimates that there are over 2 million Syrians inside Syria in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Of that number, it's an estimated 300,000 internally displaced.

United States has dedicated some $33 million to support the important work to assist and protect those in need in Syria and neighboring countries, and much more is on the way.

The violence in Syria, which began in March 2011 as a protest movement similar to those witnessed across the Middle East and North Africa, has claimed over 60, 000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.

Mina Fabulous follows the news, especially what is going on in the US State Department. Mina turns State Department waffle into plain english. Read more stories by Mina Fabulous. Contact Mina through NewsBlaze.
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