FILE PHOTO: U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun speaks at a news briefing with South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young after their meeting at the foreign ministry in Seoul, South Korea, July 08, 2020. Chung Sung-Jun/Pool via REUT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it would provide more than $720 million in humanitarian assistance for the response to the crisis in Syria and nearly $108 million for South Sudan.
Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun made the announcement on Syria at an event on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. He said the money would go “both for Syrians inside the country and for those in desperate need across the region.”
At the same event, Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa announced nearly $108 million for the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
Biegun said the additional funds for Syria would bring total U.S. support since the start of the crisis there to more than $12 billion.
A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on protesters in 2011 led to civil war, with Iran and Russia backing the government and Washington supporting the opposition. Millions have fled Syria and millions have been internally displaced.
In July, the United States imposed new sanctions aimed at cutting off funds to Assad.
Syrian authorities blame Western sanctions for civilian hardship in the country, where a collapse of the currency has led to soaring prices and people struggling to afford food and basic supplies.
Washington says its sanctions are not intended to harm the people and do not target humanitarian assistance.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said heavy rains, fighting between armed groups, food insecurity, a deteriorating economic situation, and the COVID-19 pandemic had compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.
He said the funds for South Sudan would go to help South Sudanese in the country and in neighboring states.
In 2018, South Sudan formally ended five years of civil war that killed an estimated 400,000 people, caused a famine and created a massive refugee crisis, but efforts to conclude a peace process have stalled.