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Humanitarian Situation Worsening In Syria, U.N., U.S. Officials Tell Senate

“The top United Nations refugee official has warned that Syria’s worsening humanitarian crisis risks overwhelming the international community’s capacity to respond, and that some aid agencies could run out of money for relief activities as early as the end of this month,” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking to U.S. senators in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said, “What is happening in Syria today risks escalating very quickly into disaster that could overwhelm the international response capacity — political, security-related and humanitarian,” according to the news service, which adds, “He stressed the urgent need for a political solution” (3/20). “In addition to 3.6 million people internally displaced by Syria’s civil war, registered refugees in the four neighboring countries now total 1.1 million, compared with just 33,000 last April,” according to Guterres, who noted an additional half a million unregistered refugees have left Syria, the Washington Post reports (DeYoung, 3/19).

“Halfway into an appeal for $1.5 billion to cover the cost of aid to Syrians in the first six month of the year, United Nations officials say they have received barely one-fifth of the money,” the New York Times notes (Cumming-Bruce et al., 3/15). According to the Washington Post, “[t]he United States has contributed $385 million in humanitarian aid to Syria and about $110 million in nonlethal support to opposition groups” (3/19). At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, said U.S. State Department “contributions provide life-saving emergency assistance to meet basic humanitarian needs, such as shelter, water, sanitation, and health both inside Syria and in host countries,” a testimony transcript notes (3/19). Xinhua reports that “[a]bout nine U.N. humanitarian groups currently active in Syria stressed Monday that there is no solution for the protracted crisis but the political one,” and they “not[ed] that the international community is paying more attention to the political and military talks rather than the humanitarian ones” (3/18).