This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The United States has announced nearly $600 million in new humanitarian assistance in response to the war in Syria, noting that it is aimed at helping people who have faced “innumerable atrocities,” including air strikes carried out by the regime and its ally, Russia.
U.S. assistance will benefit many of the estimated 13.4 million Syrians inside Syria, as well as 5.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“We offer support to alleviate the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people because it aligns with our values as a nation and with our national interests,” Blinken said, urging other donors to support the Syrian people.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, including Russia, have been blamed for much of the violence, which started in March 2011 as part of a wave of protests calling for political reforms in several countries in the Middle East.
Blinken said his statement that the Syrian people “have faced atrocities, including Assad regime and Russian air strikes, forced disappearances, [Islamic State] brutality, and chemical-weapons attacks.”
Corruption and economic mismanagement by the Assad regime have exacerbated the dire humanitarian crisis, which has been further compounded by COVID-19, Blinken said.
The aid was announced during the fifth Brussels Conference on supporting Syria and the region, which brings together more than 50 countries and 30 international organizations in the biggest annual drive for pledges to assist people affected by the war.
The United Nations has set a goal of $10 billion in 2021 for Syria and refugees in neighboring countries. The UN says about $4 billion of the total is needed for humanitarian relief inside Syria. The rest is for refugees and the nations in the region hosting them.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said more than 13 million people need humanitarian assistance to survive this year.
“That’s over 20 percent more than last year, and the majority of the population is now facing hunger,” Guterres said in a video message.
The $596 million pledged by the United States brings total U.S. humanitarian assistance to Syria and the region to nearly $13 billion since 2011.
Germany has pledged the most during the donor conference — 1.74 billion euros ($2 billion).
“The Syrian tragedy must not last another 10 years. Ending it begins by restoring hope. It begins with our commitments — here, today,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.