The United Nations Refugee Agency calls the crisis in Syria “the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era,” and with good reason. Since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, the civilian population has borne the brunt of the violence.
The UN estimates that in this country with a pre-war population of 22 and a half million people, more than 190,000 people have died so far as a result of the fighting. To escape the violence, more than 3 million people have fled to neighboring countries, while almost 6.5 million are displaced within Syria. But it is not just the displaced that need help: the UN estimates that this year, nearly 11 million Syrians, over half the population remaining within the country, will need humanitarian assistance.
In recent weeks, the situation has worsened considerably. Heavy fighting between ISIL extremists and forces opposing the Syrian government has displaced another 76,000 people in the country’s northern territories, while shelling by government forces in the west has chased still more civilians out of their homes. To make matters worse, a steady influx of refugees fleeing from ISIL attacks in Iraq have made their way into Syria’s north eastern provinces. They, too, are in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
This year, the United Nations launched the largest appeal ever, more than $6 billion, to respond to the impact of the humanitarian disaster in Syria. On September 12, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will provide nearly $500 million in additional aid for Syria. It is the largest funding announcement made by the United States, and brings U.S. humanitarian assistance to Syria to more than $2.9 billion.
Nonetheless, even with additional assistance from the United States, the response to the humanitarian disaster in Syria remains significantly underfunded.
“We’re committed to helping to provide relief for the millions of people who have lost their homes, their health, their dignity, in the Syrian conflict,” said Secretary Kerry. “We hope very, very much that other nations will follow our lead and contribute even more to improving what is unquestionably one of the worst humanitarian disasters in history.”