U.S. Asks for Humanitarian Access in Syria: Raises relief commitment to $1.7 billion

A Syrian refugee near the Turkish border

The United States is increasing funds for humanitarian assistance to the war ravaged people of Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry announced last weekend that Washington was adding $380 million to its aid package for Syria, bringing the total U.S. humanitarian commitment to $1.7 billion.

Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was recently in Rome for consultations with U.N. agencies. She told Vatican Radio "all the money in the world,” however, “won’t make a difference” in Syria “if we don’t have access.”

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“We need humanitarian access. There is a process that’s been underway and we’re simply not making the progress yet that we need,” Lindborg says. “So it will require a doubling down of all the international community to ensure that the regime enables humanitarians to have unfettered access to those who are in need.”

A shaky government ceasefire more than a week ago permitted hundreds of people to evacuate the besieged city of Homs in a dramatic and dangerous operation conducted by U.N. humanitarian workers.

“There are extraordinarily courageous humanitarian workers on the ground,” says Lindborg, “the bulk of whom, by the way, are Syrians, including the many health professionals who have been just relentlessly targeted throughout this crisis. So, there is a lot happening – we’re in Rome…the World Food Program (based here) has reached more than three million people. The United States is working through all channels to help our assistance reach people throughout the country, so working with the UN agencies, NGOS, local Syrian groups…what we’re learning is that as fast as we can come up with solutions and expand our operations is that the needs are rising even faster. And so, for many Syrians, the extraordinary effort and the unprecedented amount of funding is not translating into a difference in their lives."

She adds, "Many families have been uprooted two to three times and many of them have taken the step of leaving the country. I would say that we are looking at a generation of Syrian children who are not receiving schooling and we have to look at the critically important political solutions that bring an end to this crisis because just endlessly extending our humanitarian efforts will not, at the end of the day, bring the comfort that every Syrian child, woman and man needs and deserves.”

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