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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid