The United States will give $419 million more in humanitarian aid to assist Syrian refugees and the countries that are hosting them, administration officials said Monday.
The new aid brings the total U.S. donation since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 to $4.5 billion, more than any other country. It was announced a day after Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the United States would raise its annual refugee resettlement cap from 70,000 this fiscal year to 85,000 next year and 100,000 in 2017.
The United States has been the single largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syrians who have been displaced within their war-torn country or who have become refugees. But the administration has been criticized for not admitting more Syrians to the United States in the face of an epic wave of people fleeing the war zone.
President Obama has directed the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to prepare for the arrival of at least 10,000 Syrians in the next 12 months. Some members of Congress and humanitarian groups have said the United States could handle the resettlement of 100,000 refugees from Syria, in addition to tens of thousands of people who are fleeing persecution and war in other countries around the world.
Officials say they hope that humanitarian aid helps make conditions more bearable in refugee camps, so that Syrians are more likely to stay in the region until the situation stabilizes and they can return home.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday that the refugee crisis will be solved not by admitting refugees to the United States but by ending the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and confronting the threat from Islamic State militants who have established a self-declared caliphate in part of Syria.
Much of the latest donation will go directly to groups working with refugees. The largest share will go to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.N. Children’s Fund. According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the money will be used for medical care, including vaccinations; safe drinking water; and food and shelter.
Humanitarian groups have had to cut back much of their assistance as donations have dried up during the prolonged war, which has turned more than 4 million Syrians into refugees and displaced more than 7 million within their country.
The United Nations has less than 40 percent of what it needs to help Syrians, and its agencies cut aid to some refugees in order to provide aid to those who are more vulnerable.
The U.S. donation will also assist governments and communities in the Middle East that are coping with massive numbers of Syrians seeking safety in neighboring countries. Turkey has taken in almost 2 million Syrians, while both Lebanon and Jordan are hosting about 1 million each.
Syrian refugees are arriving in the United States at a quickening pace. More were admitted in the first three weeks of September than in all of 2014.
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