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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.