U.S. Working To Get Humanitarian Aid To Syria; Food Security Raised As Primary Factor In Conflict

“As the Syrian crisis rages and debate heats up over Syria’s chemical weapons, U.S. officials are fighting a quieter battle: The delivery of nearly $1.3 billion in assistance in a war zone so chaotic that ambulances are used for target practice and aid is halted by armed men at random checkpoints,” the Associated Press/Politico reports. Mark Ward, deputy special coordinator in the State Department’s Office of Middle East Transition, said security issues, a lack of access, and the threat of hijacking are complicating aid delivery, the news agency notes. “Another issue … is a widespread disregard for international humanitarian law, according to François Stamm, head of the International Committee for the Red Cross’ delegation to the United States,” the AP writes, adding, “He said combatants have occupied health facilities, turning them into targets, searched medical centers, interrupted medical treatments and killed enemy patients” (9/23). On Tuesday, President Obama announced an additional $339 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria, bringing the total U.S. funding to nearly $1.4 billion since the beginning of the crisis, according to a State Department fact sheet (9/24).

“As the U.N. General Assembly begins its session on Tuesday the crisis in Syria will undoubtedly be among the issues addressed,” Devex reports. In a video interview with the news service, Save the Children President and CEO Carolyn Miles discussed the group’s “petition to urge world leaders to allow complete humanitarian access to Syria and [its] hopes that it can bring additional pressure as they gather this week in New York,” Devex writes. “Miles explained that a huge problem — even more than violence — is hunger, as a growing number of Syrians are suffering a steep drop in production and rapidly rising prices, Save the Children says in this report released on Monday,” the news service states (Rosenkrantz, 9/24). In a video interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, posted on her blog, World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin “says that far from being a side issue, food security is itself security, and is key to a solution to the conflict in Syria” (9/23). In related news, “[t]he U.N. Development Group (UNDG), the Arab League and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) said on Monday [in a new report] that recent turmoil in the Arab region, such as the Syrian crisis, imperils progress toward anti-poverty goals across the Arab world,” Xinhua reports (9/23).

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