News / Middle East

    US Leads Struggle to Avert Humanitarian Disaster in Syria

    Delegates from 60 nations gathered in Kuwait to consider increased pledges for U.N. humanitarian aid for more than five million civilian victims of the Syria conflict, January 30, 2013.
    Delegates from 60 nations gathered in Kuwait to consider increased pledges for U.N. humanitarian aid for more than five million civilian victims of the Syria conflict, January 30, 2013.
    David Arnold
    President Barack Obama announced this week that the United States will increase aid to Syrian war victims by $155 million.

    The aid package was presented Wednesday at an international humanitarian conference for Syria chaired by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The U.N. asked the 60 nations attending the conference in Kuwait to contribute $1.5 billion for operations over the next six months.

    The president’s announcement brings the total of U.S. humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees and those displaced inside Syria to $365 million since the crisis began 22 months ago. The total is the largest amount pledged by any single country and is slightly higher than amounts pledged by all European Union donors combined.

    Debate is growing, however, over how to reach the homeless and needy inside Syria, a number now estimated to be 4.5 million.
     
    Humanitarian conditions within Syria ‘catastrophic’

    The humanitarian situation inside Syria is already catastrophic,” said Valerie Amos, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA). “Four million people are facing unrelenting violence and violations of their human rights, and we continue to see the terrible damage being caused by heavy weapons used in urban centers.”

    Donors and international agencies are now debating the effectiveness of what many now call the most complex and dangerous humanitarian emergency in the world.

    Among other questions, the debate centers on where the aid funds should go and how to deliver assistance to civilians in areas controlled by the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

    “Currently, the lion's share … is going to the 650,000-plus who have fled the country,” according to a paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The study was written by regional experts David Pollock and Andrew Tabler.

    The regime's recent strategy seems to be the deliberate destruction and depopulation of selected major urban and suburban areas
    That trend is now shifting with the president’s announcement of additional assistance for the homeless and needy inside Syria. The new U.S. funding for 2013 showed increased attention to Syria’s displaced: $64 million compared to $99 million for refugee assistance for the region as a whole.

    But according to Tabler and Pollock, delivering that assistance inside Syria will be difficult so long as the Assad government controls who gets it.

    “The regime's recent strategy seems to be the deliberate destruction and depopulation of selected major urban and suburban areas precisely in order to starve and terrorize their populations into submission,” they warned.

    ‘Humanitarian policy is a mess’

    “I would say humanitarian policy … inside Syria is a mess,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center in Qatar. Shaikh calls conditions inside Syria “a real humanitarian disaster.”

    The problem, Shaikh says, is that because the Assad regime is the still the government of Syria, the United Nations is still trying to deliver assistance through Syrian government agencies.

    Because of this, some donor nations are discussing alternative ways to deliver aid.

    “There is a clear need for the international community to really think realistically, creatively and with purpose about humanitarian policy that actually works,” says Shaikh. “Otherwise, I’m afraid we will see a worsening humanitarian crisis…”

    This is the largest, most complex and perhaps most dangerous crisis we are facing
    Despite all of the words of encouragement from the world community, Shaikh said that after almost two years of civil war, Syrians are losing hope about the arrival of humanitarian aid.

    “There is a perception inside Syria the international community has failed to protect civilians and now - given the dire human situation - that the international community is failing again just to keep them alive…,” he said.

    Management challenges for Syrian aid delivery

    Despite the difficulties, U.S. officials say aid is still getting through.

    “This is the largest, most complex and perhaps most dangerous crisis we are facing,” said Kelly Clements, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Population, Refugee and Migration Bureau.

    Assistance projects supplied by the United States and other donors are carried out by partners in major U.N. agencies and among “a broad range of non-governmental organizations,” Clements explained. She added that the assistance is getting through to both government-controlled as well as 'contested areas…'”

    Amos of the U.N.’s assistance coordinating office agrees, estimating that 49 percent of the food aid assistance had been successfully delivered in contested areas, which she said is evidence that some of the aid gets through to the toughest places.

    How to avoid working through the Assad regime

    Even so, the study by Pollock and Tabler listed several possible ways to get around Syrian government restrictions on humanitarian aid. One possibility they cited was Doctors Without Borders, the international assistance group that has set up a few clandestine clinics in rebel-held northern areas of Syria. Another is the Syrian-American Medical Society that raised $2.5 million last year in grants for Syrian medical missions and sent 23 doctors and medical technicians to work inside Syria.

    If (U.S. leadership) is not forthcoming I’m afraid we are likely to see Syria become the failed state everyone has been warning about
    However the assistance is delivered, the U.S. government remains the biggest donor and the biggest factor in setting new humanitarian aid policy in Syria, says Brooking’s Shaikh. He calls for even greater U.S. involvement in the political, military, economic and humanitarian aspects of the situation in Syria.

    “If that is not forthcoming I’m afraid we are likely to see Syria become the failed state everyone has been warning about,” Shaikh concluded.

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora