The United States is planning to rally allies and partners to send humanitarian support to people in Syria. This comes after a double veto at the U.N. Security Council crushed the country’s hopes of tightening sanctions against the government of President Bashar Assad.
Dubbed as “friends of Democratic Syria,” the group, once formed, will think of ways to get humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians under attack. It will also discuss tightening sanctions on the government, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
Nuland said there are a lot of options of getting relief to Syria, whether via land, sea and air. But she said the United States is “not at the stage of ventilating options.”
“We are talking to various partners in preparation for the forming of this friends group. So stay tuned,” she said.
The unrest in Syria is already on its 11th month, and the United Nations estimates more than 5,000 have died in the country since the uprising in March. Assad’s government continues to pursue demonstrators calling for his removal from office despite increasing international pressure. The Arab League and the European Union have already imposed sanctions on the country. The Arab League’s plan to tighten sanctions and target Assad’s finances, however, was vetoed by China and Russia.
International humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières said Assad’s regime is not only targeting civilian demonstrators, but is also after the doctors who treat wounded protesters. Security forces reportedly search hospitals for patients who have wounds consistent with those sustained in protests and demonstrations.
A doctor, who requested anonymity, told MSF that security services attack and destroy mobile hospitals, and enter houses looking for drugs and medical supplies. Another doctor, whose name was also withheld, said doctors who treat wounded patients in private hospitals have been “arrested” and “tortured.”
MSF President Marie-Pierre Allié said it is critical for the Syrian government to re-establish the neutrality of health care facilities.
“Medicine is being used as a weapon of persecution,” she said. “Hospitals must be protected areas.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the European Commission said €3 million ($3.9 million) in emergency humanitarian assistance for Syrians was released on Wednesday (Feb. 8). The fund will cover lifesaving assistance to the wounded and those forced to flee the escalating violence in the country. The spokesman, who was not identified by AlertNet, did not specify how aid would be delivered.
Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.