At today’s fourth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,” hosted by the European Union, Special Representative for Syria Engagement Ambassador James Jeffrey announced more than $696 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria in response to the ongoing crisis caused by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces. This brings the total U.S. humanitarian response to more than $11.3 billion since the start of the Syria crisis.
The United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance – both in Syria and around the world. This assistance is a component of our National Security Strategy, which directs us to continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, while ensuring increased global burden-sharing, and to support displaced people close to their homes to help meet their needs until they can safely and voluntarily return home. We appreciate the European Union’s support in hosting the conference and laud all donors who made contributions today, while encouraging others to do more. The international community, both traditional and new donors, must remain committed to meeting the growing needs of the Syrian people, a responsibility the Assad regime has proven unwilling to uphold. Instead, it has prioritized funding its reckless and destructive military campaign, payouts to regime loyalists, and the ongoing arbitrary detention of as many as 130,000 Syrian civilians, including women and children.
Today’s announcement of additional assistance through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is part of ongoing U.S. efforts to provide life-saving food, nutrition, shelter, education, medical care, livelihoods, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, and improved sanitation as well as mental health and psychosocial support to assist millions of Syrians in need, including those fleeing the devastating bombings by the Assad regime and its allies in northwest Syria. It also supports much-needed counseling and other protection programs for the most highly vulnerable groups, including children, women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. This life-saving aid will be provided through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Food Program (WFP), non-governmental organizations, and others.
The international community relies on cross-border and cross-line access to deliver humanitarian assistance, and Syrians rely on this aid to survive. In total, 6.5 million Syrians remain displaced within Syria and an additional 5.6 million have fled to neighboring countries. From December to March, in response to bombing by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces, nearly one million people in northwest Syria – more than 80 percent of whom were women and children – fled in fear for their lives. Following an early March ceasefire, over 270,000 people returned to areas of origin in northwest Syria, but approximately 700,000 remain forcibly displaced.
The United States strongly supports UN Secretary General Guterres’ recommendation to restore cross-border access between northeast Syria and Iraq to deliver aid and medicine. Russia and China cynically conspired to hamper the international community’s ability to deliver humanitarian aid to vulnerable areas in Syria through UN Security Council Resolution 2504, which reduced humanitarian border crossings into Syria from four to two, decreased the authorization process for six months, and stopped 40 percent of the medical aid to northeast Syria, thereby increasing an already significant gap in meeting humanitarian needs at a time of a global pandemic.
The United States supports freedom of movement for all, including forcibly displaced persons and conflict-affected Syrians, as well as the safe, voluntary, and dignified return or resettlement and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons in a process that is free from coercion. We reaffirm our commitment to a credible and inclusive Syrian-led, UN-facilitated political solution pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2254.