Americans and people all over the world have been moved by the images of courageous Syrians standing up to a brutal regime, even as they suffer the consequences of the violence waged against them by the Assad government. Right now, humanitarian conditions in Syria are deteriorating in the face of a massive, man-made humanitarian emergency. People have been forced from their homes; schools, clinics and bakeries continue to be targeted; and food prices are on the rise as winter takes hold.
The numbers are staggering. According to the United Nations, an estimated 2.5 million people are displaced inside of Syria, and over 678,000 people have fled to neighboring countries. Their stories touch us all, and the American people will continue to stand with them. That is why President Obama announced today that he has approved a new round of humanitarian assistance, an additional $155 million to provide for the urgent and pressing needs of civilians in Syria and refugees forced to flee the violence of the Assad regime. This brings America’s contribution to date to $365 million, making the United States the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people.
Our assistance is being delivered all across Syria and is providing food, clean water, medicines and medical treatment for hundreds of thousands of people. It will expand the delivery of vaccines for children and clothing and winter supplies for millions of people facing both the regime’s brutality and the hardships of winter. It will supply flour to bakeries in Aleppo to provide daily bread, and allow families to feed their children; it will finance field hospitals to care for those who are wounded; and it will provide care and services for the growing number of victims of sexual violence. Our assistance also supports a growing number of refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Humanitarian assistance sometimes means the difference between life and death, and that is why courageous men and women have been working day and night to ensure that these supplies are reaching those who need it most. The dangers of operating in Syria mean that many Syrians may not know that the medical care, supplies, and food that they are receiving is being provided by the people and government of the United States. It is a cruel fact that humanitarian aid providers and recipients are being deliberately targeted in Syria. Our priority is to get American aid to those in need without endangering them or our humanitarian partners, which is why much of our aid is provided quietly and without fanfare and acknowledgement.
The good news is that we are able to work with a wide range of dedicated and courageous international partners and Syrian humanitarian organizations whose commitment to reaching those in need is unwavering, and that we are also able to work with the Syrian Opposition Coalition to identify and locate those in need. Also among the many unsung heroes of the humanitarian response in Syria are Syrian-American individuals and organizations, with whom we are working to meet urgent needs now and help lay the ground for a more peaceful future.
The Assad regime is using a destructive and, sadly, not unfamiliar tactic as it attempts to destroy the livelihoods of the Syrian people. But as President Obama said in his video remarks, “We’re under no illusions. The days ahead will continue to be very difficult. But what’s clear is that the regime continues to weaken and lose control of territory. The opposition continues to grow stronger. More Syrians are standing up for their dignity. The Assad regime will come to an end. The Syrian people will have their chance to forge their own future. And they will continue to find a partner in the United States of America.”