Stop the targeting of medical infrastructure and allow unhindered humanitarian access.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
- Increase Syria humanitarian accounts through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
- Allow the office of U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) to fund the reinforcement of underground hospitals, which is shown to save lives. This currently falls between the cracks of emergency response and development aid (H.Res. 632).
- Assess how much U.S. assistance falls into the wrong hands, and devise a strategy to minimize that loss.
- Codify existing Treasury’s OFAC General License 11A, which would improve consistency and clarity for humanitarian nonprofits working through U.S. financial institutions to run projects inside Syria.
The Assad regime wields life-saving aid as a weapon of war. Nearly 1 million people in Syria are under siege. Many areas under siege have been aerially bombarded by the Assad regime and Russia, while they are encircled by pro-regime Iranian-backed militias on the ground. Civilians under siege are forced to live off of rotten food, leaves, or what little they can regenerate from scraps. The delivery of humanitarian aid has been politicized. Instead of going to their intended recipients, what few UN convoys make it into Syria are often ransacked and taken to Syrian government officials. UN humanitarian aid directed through Damascus is often siphoned off and sold to fuel the Assad government’s war bureaucracy.
Assad and Russia do not hesitate to target humanitarian workers in order to maximize civilian casualties. Physicians for Human Rights reports nearly 500 hospital attacks since the start of the conflict and nearly 850 medical workers killed. Many of these attacks use a “double-tap” tactic, in which the regime will bomb a civilian target, wait for first responders to arrive, then strike again. These actions violate the Geneva Convention and amount to war crimes.
The United States is the single largest provider of humanitarian aid to Syria. That said, many U.S. nonprofits helping to deliver that aid get caught in the tangle of U.S. bureaucracy, making it difficult to work with U.S. banks and financial institutions. De-risking their work expedites the delivery of aid to those in need.