Aid workers subjected to a catalog of horrors
Because of concerted effort by the Assad regime to obstruct assistance, the humanitarian agencies are struggling to reach populations across Syria, according to Assistant Anne C. Richard
of Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.
In her remarks while in Bethlehem, PA, Ms. Richard reports that Assad regime’s policies have turned civil conflict and disaster inside Syria into a regional crisis of historic proportions.
She says the Assad government is refusing to issue visas for humanitarian workers and blocking legitimate Syrian aid agencies from working with the international community.
09 June 2012. UN PHOTO
In addition, the regime’s policy is also blocking assistance at its borders and requiring UN convoys to travel circuitous routes through scores of checkpoints to reach people in need.
The regime also has systematically blocked food shipments to strategically located districts which is particularly true for the community of Mouadhamiyah, located near Damascus.
Regime Blocking UN convoys from entering suffering communities
According to Ms. Richard, the regime has blocked UN convoys from entering that community.
She says thousands of civilians remain trapped and YouTube videos depict severely malnourished young children.
She says Syrian residents have reportedly turned to eating leaves from olive trees.
In addition, Ms. Richard reports that a local Muslim cleric issued a religious edict authorizing residents to eat dogs normally forbidden in Islam.
“News reports this week quote regime officials as calling this approach a “Starvation until Submission Campaign,” blocking food, medicine and other goods from entering and people from leaving Mouadhamiyah and other besieged areas of Syria.” – Ms. Richard
The regime reportedly employed a systematic denial of medical assistance, food supplies, and other humanitarian aid to people living in many besieged areas.
Reports of malnutrition in cities that are blockaded by the regime are also evident.
Aid workers are heroes in Syria
Ms. Richard acknowledges the heroism of Syria’s aid workers has to be commended where most are courageous Syrians, including thousands of volunteers with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who work on all sides of the often shifting battle lines to save thousands of lives.
“In return, they have been subjected to a catalog of horrors.” – Ms. Richard
She reports aid workers have been harassed, kidnapped, killed, and stopped at every turn from reaching the innocent civilians. The obstacles exist on both sides of the war.
In addition, extremist opposition fighters have also prevented aid from reaching those in need, diverted supplies and carried out acts of violence against civilians.
According to Ms. Richard, the United States is working to capitalize on a Presidential Statement in which UN Security Council came together – despite their well-known differences – to call on all parties to respect obligations under international humanitarian law.
She says convoys carrying aid need to be expedited and relief operations expanded.
In addition, those providing medical care to the wounded and the sick must be granted safe passage.
“And attacks against medical facilities and personnel must stop.” – Ms. Richard
US urging Syrian regime for full access of humanitaria aids
Ms. Richard highlighted that a key part of the solution is putting increased international pressure on the regime to live up to the Security Council statement.
She points out that asking them to do so without concerted international pressure is unrealistic.
She underlines that the Assad regime gassed its own people and systematically denies them food and medicine and without outside pressure, the misery will continue.
With winter approaching fast, the starving and sick are growing daily, and they can waste no time.
“Aid workers must have full access to do their jobs now.” – Ms. Richard
millions of individual tragedies
According to Ms. Richard, the Syrian crisis is vastly different than just a year ago and alarmingly so.
The refugee population today stands at over two million and combined with another five million people now uprooted inside Syria, nearly one third of Syria’s population is displaced.
She notes nearly half of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance.
In addition, the large numbers of those in need are shocking by themselves, she added.
“But behind them are millions of individual tragedies.” – Ms. Richard
She says she met families literally shattered by the violence and children traumatized by what they’ve witnessed, elderly people in need of medical attention, families whose fathers and husbands have gone missing.
“What is often lost in media reports about the horrors of war is the fact that millions of ordinary people are stuck in the middle of this conflict and urgently need assistance.” – Ms. Richard
In addition, Ms. Richard stresses that Syria’s regime flagrant violation of international humanitarian norms must end before the war’s death toll – now surpassing 100,000 – reaches even more catastrophic levels.
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 100, 000 lives, mostly civilians, and displaced tens of thousands.