USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Middle East

Mapping Lebanon

This year’s Women’s History Month theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics”. In observance, USAID is spotlighting innovative women working in these fields. Below is an interview with Grace Abou-Jaoude Estephan, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at the Lebanese American University.

Your work entails putting together a hazard map of Lebanon for earthquake-induced landslides. Why is this work important?

Grace Abou-Jaoude Estephan, Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at the Lebanese American University. Photo credit: Grace Abou-Jaoude

Lebanon is a country that is located in a relatively active seismic zone. Its rugged topography makes it vulnerable to earthquake and landslide hazards. Astonishingly, records from 303AD describe the destruction of houses, cities, and monuments. Although Lebanon has not experienced any major earthquake since 1956, the recent discovery of an active thrusting fault close to its coastline has significantly raised its risk of being hit by a high magnitude earthquake. Unfortunately, no effort has been done to assess the impact of a seismic event on the risks of triggering landslide hazards in the country.

The goal of my project is to produce an earthquake-induced landslide hazard map of Lebanon that clearly shows the critical areas prone to earthquake-induced landslides. The map will be used as a reference for anyone concerned with public safety, urban planning, and disaster management.

Describe your own career path – how did you first get involved in science? What obstacles did you face along the way?

Science and math were the main topics that interested me during my school years. There was one particular female math teacher who highly influenced my interest in mathematics through her teaching style and devotion to her mission. I knew I wanted to become a civil engineer help design and construct the amazing structures I’d long admired.

After receiving my Bachelor’s in Civil Engineering (with distinction) from the American University of Beirut in 2001, I worked at one of the largest consulting companies in Lebanon. I found myself eager to learn more about design, construction, and geology. I pursued my graduate studies in geotechnical engineering at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana in 2002, where I obtained an M.S. and Ph.D in Civil Engineering from there in 2003 and 2006, respectively.

I returned to Lebanon in 2007 and took a faculty position at the Lebanese American University (LAU), in Byblos, where I have been an assistant professor since 2007. Today, I’m a registered member of the Order of Engineers in Lebanon, an associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineering, and a member of the International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering.

Why do you think it is important for women across the world to be involved in science?

Women across the world have a great potential to excel in science and there are many examples of the contributions females have made to science throughout history. Women have surely faced many obstacles and barriers along the way, but that never discouraged the female achievers from reaching their goals. I believe it is very important to maintain constant support and provide encouragement to female students interested in pursuing careers in science and engineering.

Cultural expectations and social restrictions on women, combined with outdated stereotypes of women’s roles and abilities, often dissuade girls from considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as professional options. Challenges of combining responsibilities for a household and family with a professional career also present a major constraint. Women who keep challenging these long-held stereotypes by holding careers in fields of science and technology are vital to encourage the new generation of female students to be involved in fields of science and engineering.

 

Photo of the Week: President Obama Visits West Bank

On March 21, President Barack Obama joined President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, West Bank to deliver remarks to the Palestinian people. The President remarked, “I was last here five years ago, and it’s a pleasure to be back — to see the progress that’s happened since my last visit, but also to bear witness to the enduring challenges to peace and security that so many Palestinians seek. I’ve returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine.” He added that “young Palestinians and young Israelis… deserve a better future than one that is continually defined by conflict.” During his trip, the President visited with some children at a USAID-funded center. Photo is from Muhannad Mansour from the Al Bireh Youth Development and Resource Center.

View photos from the President’s trip to the Middle East.

Learn more about USAID’s work in the West Bank and Gaza. Follow USAID West Bank/Gaza on Facebook and Twitter (@USAIDWBG).

Water Projects as part of the Middle East Regional Cooperation Program (Part 4)

Note: This is the fourth post in a 4-part series. Read part onepart two and part three.

USAID’s Middle East Regional Cooperation (MERC) Program promotes cooperation between the Arab and Israeli scientific communities through joint research projects addressing common development problems. The program was established in 1981 to facilitate research cooperation between Egyptian and Israeli scientists, and was subsequently expanded to include Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and the West Bank and Gaza.

Today, active projects involve more than 400 Arab and Israeli scientists, engineers, students and technicians at 50 institutions in seven Middle Eastern countries.  New project proposals which seek out sustainable solutions to regional development challenges are accepted every year. Working together, these scientists have led innovation in agriculture, environment, water resources and health.

A Moroccan farmer makes use of a USAID SMS advisory service to plan irrigation for his crops. Photo credit: USAID

Given the region’s water shortages and the regional nature of water challenges, the water sector is an important component of MERC’s research portfolio.  Because agriculture consumes a large amount of the region’s freshwater resources, MERC projects seek to increase the use of treated wastewater as appropriate in agriculture, minimize water demand in existing crops, and identify new crop varieties that are resistant to drought and salinity.

For example, MERC programs explore the use of wetlands and membrane-based filters for the effective and efficient re-use of reclaimed water in agriculture. Its programs model crops’ abilities to make use of low-quality water, seek the optimal amount of water plants need, and develop protocols for the safe and effective use of reclaimed water. They identify and optimize high-value traditional and specialty crops suitable to arid climates and saline soils, such as potato varieties adapted to saline soils and water, and virus-resistant tomato lines.

As do USAID’s other water projects around the region, MERC’s water portfolio makes use of cutting-edge science, technology and innovation in improving the impact and sustainability of its initiatives.  One new project, for example, brings together Israeli and Palestinian scientists to look at the interaction between coastal aquifers and the Mediterranean under changing conditions. The scientists are developing empirical, quantitative estimates of seawater intrusion and freshwater outflow along the coast in and near Gaza. They will subsequently provide policy makers with recommendations about how best to manage these aquifers.

The re-use of wastewater is a growing practice in the region. Another MERC project studies the hormonal health hazards related to this re-use, the effectiveness of new wastewater treatment plants in removing hormonal pollutants, and the cost-effectiveness of new treatment alternatives. Project leader Alon Tal from Ben-Gurion University, who works with Israeli and Palestinian scientists from Bethlehem University and other groups to implement the project, commented, “I think this is going to take to the next level what we know about streams.”

Today, at a time of rapid change in the Arab world, MERC continues to bring together Arab and Israeli scientists and students to create and share solutions to regional development challenges like water while promoting a peaceful exchange between neighbors.

Read other blog posts in this series:

USAID in the Middle East: using data to improve regional water management (Part 3)

Note: This is the third post in a 4-part series. Read part onepart two and part four.

USAID has supported Egypt’s water sector – including its water and wastewater utilities – for more than three decades. Much of Egypt’s water and wastewater infrastructure built since the early 1980s – including treatment plants and water distribution networks – has been developed with U.S. assistance. Before USAID’s involvement, water and sanitation services were unevenly provided by a mix of municipal services providers and regional authorities. In 1975, for example, 70 percent of Egyptians had access to piped water; today, nearly 100 percent do. Accurate and consistent data were rare. Data aggregated nationally were difficult to verify. As elsewhere in the region, U.S. assistance strives to make available accurate data and decision-support systems to improve water-related decision-making.

In Egypt, a team using USAID’s Program Management Information System (PRISM) to monitor the status of 3,000 water and wastewater construction projects around the country validates system data with a site visit. Photo credit: USAID

The latest generation of USAID assistance works to ensure the sustainable stewardship of Egypt’s water infrastructure by emphasizing the management systems required to make the most of past infrastructure investments. With USAID assistance, major infrastructure investment and regulatory reform projects were launched, and the local water and wastewater departments were restructured and consolidated as operating subsidiaries of a national holding company. A key element in USAID’s approach is creating the systems to track and monitor data, and indicators to monitor service quality, the efficiency of water applications, and the cost-effectiveness of capital investments.

In Egypt, five national agencies are involved with construction and maintenance of water supply infrastructure. Until recently, there were no systems in place to track the thousands of construction projects underway nationwide at any given time. This inability to track and monitor construction progress led to poorly informed investment decisions and inadequate cost control. In 2006, the newly-installed minister overseeing these efforts requested U.S. assistance to establish a capital investment project tracking tool. Today, this system provides real-time summaries of over 3,000 construction projects underway, helping to prioritize investment decisions, quantify the expected impact, and justify and explain investment decisions.

Another USAID funded system provides a platform for tracking utility performance against key indicators for national- and regional-level managers. The system, installed in all 25 of Egypt’s water and wastewater companies, tracks a wide variety of data on a quarterly basis, including figures on utility finances, customer service, drinking water quality and efficiency of operations. The comprehensive and standardized set of indicators allows leadership to review performance, make accurate comparisons across utilities and detect inefficiencies. Mohamed Hassan, executive director of the Egyptian Water Regulatory Association, credits the USAID system for “allowing the water sector regulator to track the performance of water and wastewater utilities and customer-based level of service indicators, and assisting in tariff and licensing decisions.”

Today, a range of USAID systems and tools are being used by sector officials, making use of American technical expertise to improve local water management. Using these and other management tools, USAID is helping monitor performance, prioritize and track investments, and effectively make the case for water and wastewater investments.

 

Read other blog posts in this series:

USAID in the Middle East: Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Part 2)

Note: This is the second post in a 4-part series. Read part onepart three and part four.

A map of cultivation areas made by the FEWS NET famine early warning project helps decision makers adapt to and mitigate climate change.

In arid parts of the Middle East and North Africa, famine and climate-related food shortages remain critical development concerns. In sub-Saharan Africa, after devastating famines in the 1980s, USAID created the Famine Early Warning Systems Network – FEWS NET –to monitor and predict developments that affect food security. The system has been serving the region ever since. Among its accomplishments, FEWS NET is known for pioneering the application of satellite remote sensing and models to track and predict climate-sensitive aspects of food security.

There is a powerful interdependence between water availability and agriculture, health, nutrition, and political and economic development. In Yemen, for example, variable rainfall has decreased crop production, food prices are rising, and declining GDP growth and security diminish the population’s ability to obtain adequate nutrition. Today, more than 10 million Yemenis face food insecurity, as do 8 million citizens of Sudan and South Sudan. In Sudan, rainfall has declined by 20 percent since the mid-1970s, with acute impacts for pastoral communities reliant on rainfall for crop production.

Without a stable and sufficient food supply, little other development is possible. Climate change threatens to further destabilize the situation, and recent changes in weather patterns and rainfall have already exacerbated regional water resource management problems. Rain-fed agricultural productivity is particularly vulnerable to shifts in precipitation patterns. Resilience to climate change is critical to ensuring that broad-based development priorities can be met. As Jose Graziano Da Silva, director-general of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, puts it, “there is no food security without water security.”

FEWS NET staff collaborates with U.S. Government agencies, national government ministries and international partners to collect data and produce objective, forward-looking analyses on more than 30 of the world’s most food-insecure countries. FEWS NET helps guide adaptation efforts by providing high quality analyses of recently observed climate trends.

The importance of early warning is critical. With adequate lead time, governments, development agencies and citizens have the opportunity to plan for and mitigate the impact of climate developments. FEWS NET provides continuous monitoring of weather, climate, agricultural production, prices, trade and other factors, and thus can predict and plan for emerging problems. Pioneering in its analytical approach, FEWS NET forecasts the most likely climate patterns up to six months in advance. To help government decision-makers and relief agencies plan for food emergencies, FEWS NET publishes monthly reports on current and projected food insecurity, up-to-the-minute alerts on emerging or likely crises, and specialized reports on weather hazards, crops, market prices and food assistance at www.fews.net.

Programs like FEWS NET are putting to work leading American science and technology in support of effective regional water management and decision-making. “Much of the information that we rely on comes from FEWS NET,” says Abdoulaye Diop, director of the World Food Program in Malawi. “It is quite valuable…no one else on the ground can provide this type of information.”

Read other blog posts in this series:

USAID in the Middle East: Using Data to Improve Regional Water Management (Part 1)

Note: This is the first post in a 4-part series. Read part two,  part three and part four.

Few places are drier than the Middle East and North Africa. Host to 5 percent of the world’s population, the region has only 1 percent of the world’s renewable fresh water. Population growth and increasing demands for food, housing and jobs place extreme pressures on water resources, raising the potential for conflict within and between countries. Climate change could make a challenging situation worse.

The first step for effective water decision-making is data – understanding the location, availability and quality of water resources. To be effective, water management decisions need to be grounded in the best information available. However, political and economic constraints often mean that decisions affecting water use in the region rely upon outdated or inaccurate information.

Making use of NASA satellite data, USAID helps the region’s water managers understand and plan for current and future water needs. This land cover map of northern Tunisia was derived using USAID supported remote sensing and modeling tools. Photo Credit: International Center for Biosaline Agriculture

USAID is working to put accurate data – and the know-how to interpret them – into the hands of the region’s water decision-makers. Since many in the region access shared water resources we are also promoting international cooperation and data sharing toward effective regional water management. Our Middle East Regional Cooperation program (MERC), for example, brings together teams of Arab and Israeli scientists to address common development problems.

This series profiles several initiatives focused on data, technology, cooperation and decision-making. Last year’s World Water Day edition of Global Waters portrayed others.

USAID’s work around the region has helped to improve water and wastewater services available to the region’s citizens, lessen the potential for water-related conflicts, encourage cooperation and increase the region’s ability to adapt to climate change and maintain food security. Water plays a central role in every country’s development. Its availability and quality can hinder or accelerate socio-economic progress. As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted in her 2012 World Water Day speech, “the water crisis is a health crisis, it’s a farming crisis, it’s an economic crisis, it’s a climate crisis, and increasingly, it is a political crisis.  And therefore, we must have an equally comprehensive response.”

Effective water decisions require accurate data. Using science and technology to improve water decision-making, USAID is helping the region to overcome scarcity, and ensure that water serves as a catalyst for sustainable development.

Regional: In Jordan and Elsewhere

Effective water management requires a regional approach. Water does not necessarily abide by the man-made lines drawn across the sand marking today’s international borders. Rather, it flows – above and below ground – along lines understood by geographers, not those drawn by cartographers. Therefore a transboundary approach, informed by accurate water resources data and decision-making tools, is essential. USAID has taken the lead in making available U.S. satellite data and remote sensing capabilities to key regional water decision-makers.

Joining forces with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the World Bank, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), and national agencies in Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco, USAID has developed a suite of advanced land surface models to provide regional scale hydrological data relevant to water resource planning and management. Satellite data is verified by local government measurements and fed into analytical models to turn raw data into decision-support tools.

“The overarching goal of these projects is to improve the data available to researchers and decision makers and help foster a culture of data-informed water resources policy and management,” said Mark Peters, USAID’s Regional Water Advisor.  ”USAID is playing an important role in making the most of increasingly scarce regional water resources around the Middle East. Our programs demonstrate the importance of science and technology in water resources decision-making, using data and decision-support tools to make optimal use of water resources and mitigate against water-related conflict.”

For example, in Jordan, one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, USAID is working closely with the Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI) to ground-truth NASA satellite data. The detailed satellite information on groundwater levels and vegetative cover are used in conjunction with population statistics and measures of water levels in wells throughout Jordan to enable NASA and USAID scientists to accurately track water levels in aquifers throughout the country. Making use of this resource, USAID and the MWI are able to improve water resource planning efforts, and avoid the over-depletion of key aquifers.

Models indicate that certain aquifers are at risk of over-depletion, and as a result USAID and MWI have redoubled efforts to reduce agricultural water use in these areas. Such findings are reinforced by cooperation between Jordanian scientists and the U.S. Geological Survey evaluating groundwater level and salinity trends around the country. Data produced as a result of this cooperation help prioritize locations for groundwater management, provide a baseline for evaluating impacts of the reduction of over-pumping, and increase public awareness of groundwater trends. “There is severe over extraction of the highlands aquifers,” argues MWI Secretary-General Basem Telfah. “With new information coming from both our well and satellite monitoring systems, it is very clear that Jordanians have to act quickly to change agricultural practices.”

Sound water management begins with good data provision. Groundwater resources are under increasing pressure in the MENA region, and declining levels in many aquifers highlight the need for careful future management. Given the growing and diverse needs for water, decision-makers need to understand current resource limits and the impacts of future policies as they balance competing demands. The United States is a leader in using satellite data and remote sensing technologies to inform water decision-making. We are making available these powerful tools around the arid Middle East as the countries of the region chart their own hydraulic future.

Read other blog posts in this series:

 

Why Institution Building in the West Bank is Critical for a Palestinian State

Mara Rudman serves as assistant administrator for the Middle East.

I recently spoke on a panel about U.S. support to Palestinian institution building at the 2013 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. The conference draws about 12,000 community and student activists from all 50 states, as well as many Israeli and American policymakers and thought leaders each year.

Speaking at the conference provided an excellent opportunity to discuss the importance of U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its key role as part of the two-track U.S. approach to Middle East peace. This approach couples resumed political negotiations to establish a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel with support for Palestinian institution-building so that the new state has the capacity to govern its people justly and provide needed services from its first day.

The United States is the leading provider of bilateral assistance to the Palestinians. We are working closely with the Palestinians to help them build the governance structures and the economy of a future state. We do this by working with all levels of government, with the private sector and with civil society. And we do so in a way that benefits not just Palestinians, but Israelis as well. From developing water infrastructure to connecting Palestinian ICT firms with Israeli companies to working with the justice sector on critical rule of law matters, we are bringing together Palestinians and Israelis to address important issues of mutual concern.

USAID and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) deliver food and other necessities to families in Hebron. Photo credit: USAID

Our work with the PA helps it deliver basic services to the Palestinian people. Since 1994 the United States has helped the Palestinian health system offer improved emergency services, enhanced diagnosis and treatment, and improved administration including an integrated health information system; and ensured that more than a million Palestinians had access to clean drinking water. When people see that their public institutions work—when a village gets piped water for the first time or a businessman interacts with a well-trained broker who makes the customs process easier—this helps build confidence in the institutions of government.

This work is helping to build a more democratic, stable and secure region, which benefits Palestinians, Israelis and Americans. The interest shown by the people who came up to me following the presentation who wanted to engage further was inspiring.  It  demonstrated  the value in USAID continuing to share  the story of our support for Palestinian institution building, as one part of the two-track approach, that coupled with resumed political negotiations, can help lead to the establishment  a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.

Round-the-Clock Aid for a Syrian Baby

In January 2013, a mortar shell struck an apartment in Dar’a Governorate.  A mother in an adjoining apartment grabbed her 7-month old son Dia’a* and ran to check for survivors.

Just as she discovered her brother was killed in the attack, another mortar shell hit the building—this time killing one of her other sons.  The explosion also ruptured a water heater, blasting scalding water on Dia’a’s face and right arm.

Seven-month-old Dia'a* sustained burns to his face and arm after a shell hit his house, causing a nearby water heater to burst water onto him. Photo credit: USAID NGO Partner

Dia’a was rushed to a nearby Syrian government-run medical clinic, where many believe that women and children can safely receive care. After Dia’a received basic aid, a worker at the clinic discreetly warned the mother that they should leave before she and her son were both killed.

The family fled to the Jordanian border and were received by Jordanian border guards, who transported them to Za’atri refugee camp. During the trip, Dia’a contracted a severe infection, which needed to heal before further he could receive treatment.

Every four hours, a medical team at a U.S.-funded clinic is changing the dressings on Dia’a’s burns. As soon as the infection is gone, doctors at the clinic will perform a skin graft.  Doctors expect Dia’a will make a full recovery, despite the scars from his burns.

Dia’a’s mother expressed gratefulness for the care her son is receiving at the U.S.-funded medical clinic and also thanked the Jordanian government for assisting her family and countless other Syrians in their time of need.

In total, the United States is providing nearly $385 million to help the innocent children, women, and men affected by the crisis in Syria. U.S. humanitarian aid includes emergency medical care and medical supplies, food aid, and winterization and other relief supplies that will help more than 2.4 million people in Syria, as well as the more than 1 million who have fled to the safety of neighboring countries.

*Name changed to protect identity

Improving Hygiene for Displaced Syrians

Using clean water from her family’s new bucket, Haneen* brushes her teeth with the toothbrush received from a USAID partner in Olive Grove Camp “I now can use a toothbrush to brush my teeth. I go to the well and put some water in the bucket, then use this water to wash my hands and brush my teeth.”  PhotoCredit: USAID Partner *Name changed to protect identity Improving Hygiene for Displaced Syrians

Basic personal hygiene is critical to help prevent the spread of illness and  disease among displaced Syrians.

After nearly two years of ongoing brutal conflict, more than 4 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, including some 2.5 million who are displaced from their homes.

In Atmeh’s Olive Tree Camp, near the Reyhanli border crossing in Turkey’s Hatay Province, many of the residents left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Good basic personal hygiene and hand washing are critical to  help prevent the spread of illness and disease, and providing basic hygiene supplies and education was identified as a  priority in the camp.

USAID—through an international non governmental  organization—began distributions of family hygiene kits in the  camp in October 2012.  Each kit includes two towels, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, and feminine pads. USAID also provided two water containers and buckets to store and transport clean water to tents and makeshift homes.

“When people are running away from war and destruction, they  think less about hygiene and keeping the children clean,” says one Syrian mother. “I like the items that my family got, because we now have things that we can use and are of a help to us as a unit.”

To further improve hygiene in the camp, USAID funding also repaired the water pump, established water trucking, and constructed a septic system that supports 60 latrines, with 100 more in the construction process. In addition, USAID also established 120 garbage collection points and established trash removal services in the camp.

These hygiene programs are in addition to medical and other assistance USAID is providing to Syrians in the Olive Tree Camp.

In total, the United States is providing nearly $385 million to help the innocent children, women, and men affected by the crisis in Syria. We will continue to stand by and with the Syrian people.

To learn more about USAID’s efforts in Syria, http://www.usaid.gov/crisis/syria

To Meet Immediate Needs of the Syrian People, Access Is Paramount

Originally featured on the Huffington Post

Women bear extraordinary burdens in war. This reality was starkly clear during my recent visits to Turkey and Jordan and as I travelled to Kuwait for the UN’s humanitarian pledging conference for the people of Syria. While traveling last week with Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard and Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, we heard firsthand what this crisis means for the people, and especially the women, of Syria. We took this trip to listen to the people of Syria and to underscore the United States’ commitment to stand with them in their time of need.

Nancy Lindborg is the USAID assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance. Photo Credit: USAID

In Islahiye Camp in southern Turkey, we met Efet, an eloquent young woman no longer able to pursue her law studies. She called on us and others to focus on the needs of the many women still inside Syria — those who are pregnant and need medical help, those suffering from rape and violence, and those struggling to find food and clean water for their children.

In a smoky teahouse in Amman, I met Nouf, who has already lost her husband and older son, and fled from Homs with her teenage son to keep him from being drafted, arrested or killed. Like so many women I met, in a tragic use of mobile technology, she showed me photos of her late son and husband on her cell phone. Now safe in Jordan, she still fears for her daughters back in Homs where food and basic supplies are growing scarce. She worries how she will manage in Amman without savings. And she has bleak hopes for the future.

Nouf is just one of millions of Syrians whose lives and families have been yanked into chaos by this crisis and the brutality of the Asad regime. In Jordan, at the Syrian border at midnight, the moon faintly illuminated a landscape of scrubby vegetation and the outlines of hundreds of families who had just crossed into safety. In groups of 100, they were welcomed and processed by the Jordanian Border Guard, then bussed to the Za’atri refugee camp, joining some 60,000 refugees already there. In the single night we visited, more than 3,000 people left Syria for the safety of neighboring countries.

As part of our ongoing efforts to help the Syrian people during this devastating crisis, the United States has prioritized the provision of urgent medical help, food, blankets, warm clothes, and protection to help more than 1.5 million people inside Syria and the growing number of refugees living in neighboring countries. But we know that more needs to be done.

Additional funding is one vital part to meeting this challenge. Jointly hosted by the UN and the Emir of Kuwait, the UN’s recent pledging conference raised more than $1.6 billion in humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria and came at a pivotal time for Syrians struggling to survive. On the eve of Kuwait, President Obama announced an additional $155 million in humanitarian assistance on behalf of the United States, bringing the total U.S. commitment to $365 million.

Of the U.S. government’s contribution, more than $200 million to date is now going through all possible channels to meet the needs of families inside Syria. But these needs are growing, and for this assistance to reach and help all those who need it most, we must — together with the international community — continue to press firmly for the access essential to any effective humanitarian response.

As the UN confirmed on January 28 Syrian regime continues to block access for aid workers. The United States strongly supports the UN’s strong stance in pressing the Syrian Arab Republic Government for greater access for humanitarian assistance into contested and opposition-controlled areas. And we are seeing some real breakthroughs as a result, including a UNHCR convoy that just last week was able to deliver 2,000 tents and 12,000 blankets to Syrians displaced in the difficult to reach far north of the country.

Closely coordinating with the Syrian Opposition Council’s Assistance Coordination Unit was a key part of enabling this mission to cross conflict lines, and both the UN and the U.S. government are actively strengthening this partnership as part of our wider effort to ensure more life-saving aid reaches Syrians throughout the country.

All parties to this conflict must ensure that our humanitarian assistance can reach those who need it most in their time of need. The women of Syria and their children — the families who have been displaced two or three times — urgently need our help, and it is our responsibility as the international community to push harder than ever for the access we need to reach them.

Follow Nancy Lindborg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NancyLindborg

Page 4 of 10:« First« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 »Last »