Statement by Ambassador Jeffrey on COVID-19 outbreak in Syria
March 30, 2020
The Syrian people have suffered and sacrificed greatly over the past nine years and now must endure unprecedented challenges as we collectively face the global pandemicT of COVID-19. While the Assad regime continues to use cynical ploys to divide the population even during this crisis, the Syrian people can continue to count on the United States to stand with them by delivering humanitarian assistance to people in need and working with teams on the ground to help mitigate the impact of the virus.
I want to assure the Syrian people that U.S. sanctions do not in any way impact the delivery of food or humanitarian goods, including medicines and medical supplies, entering Syria. Since our sanctions were implemented, we have provided exemptions for humanitarian aid in all areas of Syria. In fact, there are U.S. programs working with NGO’s to deliver medicines and foodstuff to nearly all parts of Syria, including regime held areas. The United States will continue our extensive support in Syria for health, water, sanitation, hygiene, and medical programming for conflict-affected populations in Syria. Our disaster assistance is helping WHO, UN agencies and NGOs build more water, sanitation and health facilities in camps and informal IDP settings across northern Syria to prevent the spread of the virus.
In the northwest, the situation is made worse by the Assad regime and Russia’s deliberate targeting of hospitals and medical clinics in its assaults on Idlib, and cynical control of relief aid to punish the Syrian people. In the northeast, the international community’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance is complicated by Russia’s cynical and widely condemned action in the UN Security Council in January to close the one UN-authorized humanitarian assistance crossing point into that area.
We remain in regular contact with our humanitarian partners to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees, internally displaced persons, stateless people, and other vulnerable migrants, as well as their ability to protect their staff, maintain supply chains, and other critical components of the international community’s efforts to respond to humanitarian crises.
The United States stands with the people of Syria as one of the leading contributors of humanitarian aid in this crisis. Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, U.S. humanitarian assistance has totaled more than $10.6 billion inside Syria and in the region, including Secretary Pompeo’s March 27 announcement of an additional $16.8 million in emergency health and humanitarian assistance to Syria in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.