Valerie Amos: Needs continue to grow in Syria

Valerie Amos, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, says the humanitarian situation in Syria has worsened. Photo by: Fardin Waezi / U.N.

The top U.N. humanitarian and relief official, Valerie Amos, has reported back from Syria with bad news: The number of people in need of aid has grown as violence there intensified.

Amos, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, has been in Syria since Tuesday (Aug. 14) to assess the situation there. It is her second visit to the country since March.  Her assessment: Violence “has become more intense” and the “humanitarian situation has worsened.”

Up to 2.5 million people around the country now need assistance, up from approximately 1 million in March, Amos said. She added that as a result, needs for food, sanitation, health care and water are also growing.

“We are working to update our plans and funding requirements,” Amos explained, even as she recognized persistent challenges such as limited funding and insecurity.

Amos also renewed her call for the Syrian government to be more “flexible in its approach to humanitarian operations.” She told BBC that the capacity of the Syrian Arab Crescent to assist is already stretched. Amos added that she will continue to persuade the government to allow more international presence to support the group as well as local U.N. staff but that “it is not an easy task.”

The United Nations could be doing more “right now in areas that are safe enough and where we have established solid partnerships” with nongovernmental organizations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Amos argued.

Meanwhile, Canada has deferred a $2 million aid package for Syria that was set to be channeled through the nongovernmental group Canadian Relief Syria. Foreign Minister John Baird said “current intention” to disburse the assistance “will not be pursued,” The Winnipeg Free Press reports. Canada will “find alternatives,” the foreign minister added.

Finland, on the other hand, has announced €1.5 million ($1.8 million) in additional humanitarian assistance. The grant will be coursed through the Finnish Red Cross, World Food Program and UNICEF. Part of the funding will be used to support the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ activities in Syria. 

Worsening violence in Syria has led the United Nations to let the observer force’s mission to end Sunday, Aug. 19. The continuation of the mission depended on a cessation of heavy weapons use and a reduction in violence, none of which had taken place. U.S. Security Council members, however, have agreed to set up a liaison office in Damascus.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.