The United States announced Thursday that it will be providing more than $397 million in additional humanitarian aid to further assist relief efforts responding to the Syria crisis.
The new funds will be used to assist non-governmental organizations like the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) and the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in providing food, shelter, medicine and education to 12 million people in Syria as well as nearly 6 million refugees living in nearby countries.
“The United States calls for immediate, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access for all people in need in Syria,” the State Department said in a statement.
“The United States reaffirms its support for freedom of movement for all displaced people and the safe, voluntary and dignified return of refugees and internally displaced persons in a process that is free from coercion.”
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.
An estimated 83 percent of Syrians live below the poverty line, according to the UNHCR.
The bulk of the funds, or around $135 million, will be going to Syria, where they will be used for not only food and shelter but also “critical relief supplies and much-needed counseling and protection programs” for the most vulnerable people in the country.
In addition to Syria, the countries receiving U.S. aid as part of the Syrian relief efforts include Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
The U.S. will also be giving nearly $81 million in aid to Turkey, which hosts the most Syrian refugees of any country in the world, at 3.5 million. Those funds will be directed towards supporting schools and psychosocial programs for refugee communities in the country.
With the new funds, Washington has now given roughly $9.5 billion to aid Syrian relief efforts since the conflict began, according to the State Department.
The announcement of additional aid comes a day after the UNHCR issued a joint statement with two other UN agencies calling for increased funding towards relief efforts inside Syria as well as the regional refugee and resilience program, which supports countries that host Syrian refugees.
According to last year’s figures, only 62 percent of the $5.6 billion necessary to fully implement the regional refugee and resilience plan was funded and only 65 percent of the $3.4 billion required for efforts in Syria was received.
By Umar Farooq in Washington