Our "Photo of the Week" comes to us from Laurens Vermeire, a public affairs colleague accompanying a State Department and USAID delegation to Turkey and Jordan. The delegation includes U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford; Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne Richard; and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg.
The photograph shows the delegation's visit to the Islahiye Refugee Camp for Syrians near the Syrian-Turkish border in Turkey on January 24, 2013. During the visit, the delegation members spent several hours talking with camp residents about their concerns and listening to them share about their daily lives at the camp.
"Several stories really struck me," Ambassador Ford said. "I met a woman who lost two sons in the past year fighting against the Assad Regime...and yet she was still hopeful that Syria would be free one day. She said to me, 'Mr. Ambassador I hope to see you back in Damascus in a free Syria.' She's suffered so much, and now she's in a refugee camp, and she yet she hasn't lost hope. People like that, their bravery and strength, is quite remarkable."
The delegation also met officials of the camp and visited some of the camp's facilities, including a school and a laundry facility. Assistant Secretary Anne Richard said, "I come away very impressed by the way the Turkish government has provided so much to the Syrian refugees. Many of the Syrians with whom I've spoke today are very grateful to the Government of Turkey, to the people of Turkey. That's the good news piece of the story, and so I was very happy to see children who are well fit, who are being kept warm, and are in a safe place. The part of the story that worries me is that they can't go home and they know that, and they are very, very worried about their own families and I share that concern with them. We are working to ensure that if more people come out of Syria they will also get a reception like this. We are supporting the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. USAID is working with World Food Program, so we want to continue the ability for refugees to cross open borders and get the help they need."
To date, the United States is providing $220 million in humanitarian assistance to help more than three million people in Syria and more than 650,000 people who have fled to the safety of neighboring countries. Life-saving food, medical care, blankets, and essential winter supplies from the American people are reaching children, women, and men in all 14 governorates inside Syria, as well as refugees outside the country.
"This is a crisis of enormous proportions," Assistant Administrator Lindborg said at the camp. "We are moving aggressively to provide additional assistance; we call on other countries to do the same. The Syrian people need our support. We need to support those countries that are hosting huge refugee populations, and we need to try every means possible to get help to those who are still inside Syria. Throughout the country there are needs, including in the areas that are still experiencing conflict, and we need to help ease some of that suffering."