News / Middle East

US Urges Increased Humanitarian Aid to Syria

Newly arrived Syrian refugees are seen at Ceylanpinar refugee camp, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, November 10, 2012.
Newly arrived Syrian refugees are seen at Ceylanpinar refugee camp, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, November 10, 2012.
Sean Maroney
U.S. officials are calling for more international aid to Syria's population, with nearly half a million Syrians now refugees from the 20-month-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.  

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the United States will press others in the international community to provide increased humanitarian aid for Syrians at next month's high-level diplomatic meeting of the so-called "Friends of the Syrian People."

Speaking at a conference in Washington Thursday, the ambassador also suggested that the U.S. government could eventually recognize Syria's newly-formed opposition council as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

"We would like to see them continue to develop as an organization, as a coalition.  They are making real progress, and I expect that our position with them will evolve as they themselves develop," said Ford.

Any formal recognition from Washington would put the United States in line with several of its European and Arab allies. It also would open the door for more U.S. assistance for Syrians.

So far, the United States is the biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid to the country with nearly $200 million already provided.

Since February, the number of Syrian refugees has increased from 15,000 to nearly half a million, while the number of civilians displaced inside the country has increased 25-fold to almost one million.

The State Department's Kelly Clements, who helps oversee U.S. aid for Syria, says these growing numbers will increase the Syrian people's calls for aid.

"The needs will likely double going forward in terms of the first half of 2013," she said.

However, the current response plans - which expire at the end of the year - still are barely halfway funded.  Clements attributes this to donor fatigue.

"Syria is one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world today, but it is not the only one.  We have the Sahel obviously, Sudan and other humanitarian emergencies around the world, and I think what we are seeing is donors trying to balance to the extent possible these competing needs, which continue to rise," she said.

Clements says another problem is that it is difficult to get accurate information out of Syria on what the people there need.

  • Syrian refugees try to cross the border fence from the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ain into Turkey during an air strike on Ras al-Ain, in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, November 13, 2012.
  • Newly arrived Syrian refugees are seen at Ceylanpinar refugee camp, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, November 10, 2012.
  • A Syrian girl who fled with her family carries a plastic container over her head as she walks to fill it with water at a displaced camp in the Syrian village Atma, near the Turkish border with Syria, November 10, 2012.
  • People from the northern Syrian town Ras al-Ain attempt to cross into Turkey, as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, November 13, 2012.
  • A Syrian family who fled from violence sits next to their belongings at a displaced camp in the Syrian village Atma, near the Turkish border with Syria, November 7, 2012.
  • A Syrian baby cries as he lays on a swing attached to a tree at a camp in the Syrian village Atma, near the Turkish border with Syria, November 5, 2012.
  • A Syrian boy, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between government forces and rebels, plays near his tent at a refugee camp near the Turkish border, Azaz, Syria, October 7, 2012.
  • A Turkish police officer checks identification cards of Syrian men after they crossed from Syria to Turkey at the Akcakale border gate, October 4, 2012.
  • A Syrian man, who fled his home due to government shelling, holds his son at Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, hoping to cross to a refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town Azaz, September 12, 2012.
  • An elderly Syrian man, who fled his home due to fighting, takes refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, August 23, 2012.
  • A Syrian girl, who fled her home with her family due to violence, looks back while checking her laundry, at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing near the Syrian town of Azaz, August 26, 2012.
  • Syrian refugees walk through the Dumez refugee camp in Dahuk, northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, August 13, 2012.

Thursday's news that the Syrian government had cut the country's Internet access and phone service promised to further complicate the issue.

Ambassador Ford says it is clear that the Syrian military is weakening. But he insists that U.S. aid should not, at this time, extend to arming the opposition, which continues to ask for weapons.

"Arms are not a strategy.  Arms are a tactic.  Efforts to win this by conquering one side or the other will simply prolong the violence, and frankly, aggravate an already terrible humanitarian situation.  Syria needs a political solution," he said.

But Ford says there is no sign yet of any political deal between the opposition and the government, so the fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives will continue.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs