As you’ve heard, the scale of this crisis is truly challenging. Over a short timeframe, large numbers of Syrians have become displaced in their own country and millions more are affected by the violence. The pace at which numbers of Syrians have become refugees is alarming – total numbers have risen from 66,000 a year ago to 1.4 million today. Some are living in refugee camps; the vast majority are in living in villages and cities.
The generosity of these neighboring countries has been inspiring. But that, too, has its limits as the governments, families, social services, and civic organizations are strained to the breaking point to accommodate this flood of new arrivals.
Over the past year, I've traveled several times to Turkey and Jordan, and visited Lebanon. In each of these places, I've met with Syrian refugees. I've been to the camps in Turkey and to Za'atri camp in Jordan.I've met with refugee families in apartments in Amman and Mafraq and at UN offices in Beirut.
If there is good news to share in this otherwise bleak picture, it is that the United States has not forgotten these people.
What is the US Government doing to help?
The US Government is the engine driving the international humanitarian response.
The United States Government, through my Bureau – the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration (or PRM)-- at the State Department and USAID, is the leading donor to aid operations in response to this unfolding catastrophe.
The State Department and USAID have contributed nearly $410 million so far. The most recent announcement made by Secretary Kerry in Istanbul added $25 million in food aid via USAID resources; and, now that Congress has finished action on the FY 2013 budget,we intend to do more in the coming weeks and months.
U.S. taxpayer dollars make it possible for our international and non-governmental organization partners to bring emergency medical care, food, shelter and household supplies to victims of the conflict in all of Syria's 14 governorates. For example, with U.S. support, the International Committee of the Red Cross has been able to ensure that over 10 million people have clean drinking water. We are also helping aid workers reach hard-to-reach communities, primarily in opposition-controlled areas.
Our contributions are also supporting the building of camps in Jordan, as well as stepping up protection in the camps. For example, largely in response to discussions we’ve had with the NGOs about the need to better prevent and respond to gender-based violence and exploitation, we funded specific programs targeted at women and girls who are vulnerable.
At the same time, PRM and our USAID colleagues are working carefully to target assistance to address needs in cities and villages in both Jordan and Lebanon where refugees are living. These communities are suffering from financial strain and growing tensions as a result of hosting large populations of refugees.
We have also asked other countries to join us in supporting these international aid efforts. In this context I want to publicly acknowledge and thank the Government of Kuwait for hosting the Syria pledging conference on January 30, and for fulfilling the entirety of its generous pledge of $300 million through contributions to UN agencies, the ICRC, and IOM. Bravo, Kuwait – you have set a very good example for other donors to follow!