USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

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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

Assistant Secretary Anne Richard and Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg Meet With Syrian Refugees

This originally appeared on the U.S. Department of State’s Dipnote.

Assistant Secretary Anne Richard traveled to the refugee camps in Turkey with Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg. Read more about their trip. 

U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg visited a refugee camp for Syrians in Turkey. While there, they met with Turkish partners and assistance providers to discuss the needs of Syrian refugees and ongoing humanitarian assistance efforts.

The U.S. delegation commended the generosity of the Government of Turkey and the Turkish people, and recognized the Turkish Red Crescent for its tireless efforts to provide protection and assistance to Syrians affected by the crisis. Assistant Secretary Richard said, “I come away very impressed by the way the Turkish government has provided so much to the Syrian refugees. Many of the Syrians with whom I spoke today are very grateful to the government of Turkey, to the people of Turkey.”

“We are working to ensure that if more people come out of Syria they will also get a reception like this,” Assistant Secretary Richard said. “We are supporting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. USAID is working with the World Food Programme so we want to continue the ability for refugees to cross open borders and get the help they need. They are not alone, they are supported by the United States and the American funding is coming through international organizations, to reach them, and to help them, and to help their compatriots.”

Assistant Administrator Lindborg said, “…We have prioritized getting critical winter assistance in. It’s cold right now and we know that when you’re displaced and you’ve had to leave your home suddenly that you need essential blankets, carpets, warm clothing, plastic sheeting, ways to help families survive the winter. We will have reached 460,000 people, particularly in the northern parts of Syria with that kind of help by the end of this month. We know that’s not enough. This is a crisis of enormous proportions. We are moving aggressively to provide additional assistance. We call on other countries to do the same.”

The United States is providing food aid, medical supplies, emergency and basic health care, shelter materials, clean water, hygiene education and supplies, and other relief supplies — including blankets and heaters — to help millions of people affected by the crisis in Syria. More than two and a half million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, approximately 1.2 million people are internally displaced, and over half a million people have fled to the neighboring countries of Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Photo of the Week: State and USAID Visit WFP Distribution Center in Jordan

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg visit a World Food Programme Distribution Center in Amman, Jordan, where refugees living in host communities receive vouchers on January 27, 2013. They can use these vouchers to shop for their families in local supermarkets. Photos from  State Department.

President Obama Announces Additional Humanitarian Aid for the Syrian People

This post originally appeared on The White House Blog.

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.”

Read the President’s message in Arabic (pdf). You can also watch the video with Arabic subtitles.

 

Video of the Week: Administrator Shah Discusses Humanitarian Crisis in Syria

On the heels of his return from a refugee camp in Turkey, Dr. Shah did a live interview on Friday, December 7th with Al Jazeera English about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Dr. Shah stressed the importance of international support for those affected by the crisis, which is why the U.S. has committed more than $200 million for displace people inside and outside of Syria.  He also noted that humanitarian efforts are reaching about 1.5 million people with food, 400,000 families with winterization materials, 22,000 people with surgeries.

Engaging with Arab Americans on Syria

On Friday, September 28, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah traveled to the Arab American National Museum in Michigan to meet with a group of Arab American leaders and tour the museum. The Smithsonian Institution-affiliated museum, which chronicles the contributions of Arab Americans to the United States and the world, is the first and only one of its kind. It is located in Dearborn, the city with the largest percentage of Arab Americans in America, and is a project of Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), the largest Arab American social service organization in the United States.

At the roundtable, Administrator Shah, moderator Hassan Jaber, the executive director of ACCESS, and Arab American community and organizational leaders discussed USAID’s work in the Middle East, in particular in support of the people of Syria, and how diaspora and immigrant communities can be engaged.

The event came just as Secretary Clinton was hosting a Friends of Syria meeting in New York and announcing nearly $30 million in additional humanitarian assistance to help those affected by the conflict in Syria.

One participant told Dr. Shah that as a child in Syria, he had seen the distribution of bags of food with USAID’s logo of clasped hands and that this had left a permanent imprint on him – it made him realize that the United States cared about him and the people around him. What, he wanted to know, was USAID doing now in the midst of the crisis in Syria?

The United States, in partnership with the international community, is tirelessly working to provide aid to the innocent children, women, and men affected by this conflict. We are delivering more than $130 million in humanitarian assistance to help more than 975,000 people inside Syria and the nearly 300,000 who have fled to the safety of neighboring countries. We are the largest provider of food aid to those affected by the crisis, and we are providing medical supplies and medical care in some of the hardest-hit cities in Syria. Due to ongoing violence and access restrictions, humanitarian partner organizations and their courageous staff are not yet able to reach everyone in need, but we continue to work to expand our aid networks to overcome these hurdles and provide additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the crisis.

The meeting was a good opportunity for Dr. Shah to discuss his experiences on his recent visit to Za’aatri refugee camp near the Syria-Jordan border and his conversations with Syrians, young and old, who have sought refuge at the camp.

Equally important was the chance for Dr. Shah and USAID staff to learn from the people in the room, many of whom have family and friends in Syria. They shared their understanding of the situation on the ground, discussed what they are doing to help, and identified needs that might be addressed by the U.S. Government. They wanted to talk not only about the here and now but to engage also on a post-Assad era.

This meeting is part of an ongoing dialogue to deepen our partnerships with immigrant and diaspora community members to help the Syrian people.

Visit our website for additional information about what the United States is doing to help the people of Syria.

Photo of the Week: USAID in Yemen

Yemeni school girls wave the Yemen flag last autumn after USAID efforts helped return children to classes following the 2011 Yemen uprising. Photo Credit: USAID

This week, Administrator Shah is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the Yemen Donor Conference. Learn about the work USAID is already doing in Yemen.

Empowering Yemeni Youth

My home town – Aden, Yemen – has been engulfed by a series of crises over the past year that have negatively affected my people. We are not used to seeing young people carrying guns and showing so little tolerance for one another. Sadly, this is now the norm.

My concern for my community drew me to service, and in 2009 I established the Leaders Community Services Association in Aden along with several other young people. Our mission is to support our community and find ways to engage young people.

For nearly three years we have partnered in this mission with USAID and, in that time, I have come to believe that our commitments and our objectives are parallel. We both see the need for an integrated approach to addressing the many challenges faced by young Yemenis.  We must address these challenges strategically, and understand the root causes of my society’s struggles: unemployment, the large number of young people without job, and the fragmentation of traditional societal structures.

Early last year I joined a USAID workshop focused on developing life skills.  It opened my eyes to how much more can be done to empower and motivate young people to become active in their communities and got me thinking of different ways of bringing about community change.

I started thinking of new ways my association could target larger audiences. We turned to USAID’s Engaging Youth for a Stable Yemen program, and together we held a festival promoting peace and understanding in my community. With USAID’s help, we organized an event which encouraged youth to use their time wisely and discouraged them from carrying arms. We encouraged participation by hosting a concert featuring hip-hop and rap acts, and documentary films emphasizing constructive options for youth. The festival was the first of its kind in Aden and my peers loved it. My team learned that Aden youth are ready to engage and volunteer to benefit their community.

I was motivated by our success and USAID’s help pulling the event together to develop my skills as a community activist further. With USAID support, I pursued a three-month internship with the Creative People’s Solution Institute. I am now working with the Institute to help run training sessions on resolving community conflicts and disputes, which could reach more than 6,000 local youth.

Recently, I received a U.S. government grant to help 400 youth at the University of Aden’s schools of medicine, engineering, education, and arts become involved in their communities. Participants will receive life skills training, and will be asked to develop and implement ideas to improve their educational experience.

I am passionate about making improvements in my community, helping its members better understand each other, and creating a healthy environment for dialogue and tolerance. It is a labor of love that USAID and the American people are helping me to pursue.

Areej Haider is a 26-year-old community activist in Aden. She is a student at the University of Aden School of Medicine. Areej obtained a Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) fellowship in 2005 which launched her as a community activist. She is a founder and head of the Leaders Community Services LCP Association.

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