Entries in Aid (18)


UN Urges $1.5 Billion in Humanitarian Aid for Syria

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Syria needs $1.5 billion more in humanitarian aid, the United Nations said Wednesday, as the number of refugees fleeing violence is expected to swell to one million by mid-2013.

Since President Bashar al-Assad unleashed his military on opposition forces in March 2011, an estimated 40,000 people have died in the conflict, with over 500,000 seeking safe havens in other countries, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.

According to Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations regional coordinator for Syrian refugees, if assistance from the international community does not arrive immediately, "we will not be able to fully respond to the lifesaving needs of civilians who flee Syria every hour of the day, many in a truly desperate condition."

Roughly two-thirds of the $1.5 billion sought by the U.N. would directly benefit Syrian refugees, while the remainder is earmarked for as many as four million people still in the country who are directly affected by escalating violence between al-Assad's military and rebel fighters.

Attempting to put the scope of the humanitarian crisis into perspective, Radhouane Nouicer, United Nations coordinator of humanitarian aid, said the non-stop fighting means there are virtually no places left in Syria where people can find safety.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Terrorist Offers Hurricane Sandy Aid; US Says No Thanks

AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images(ISLAMABAD) -- The U.S. has turned down an offer of post-Hurricane Sandy assistance from one of the world's most wanted men, a Pakistani terrorist leader with a $10 million U.S. bounty on his head.

Hafiz Saeed, an Islamist militant who is alleged to have masterminded the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that left more than 160 people dead, issued a written statement Wednesday saying his organization was willing to send supplies and volunteers to help the U.S. East Coast recover.

"We are ready to send food items, medicines and doctors to the U.S. for the people affected by the storm," said Saeed.  "America [may] fix bounties on our heads but as followers of the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), we feel it is our Islamic duty to help Americans trapped in a catastrophe."  Saeed noted that the charity he heads had provided aid in Sri Lanka and Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami.

Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group banned by the Pakistani government, and still heads its charity wing, Jamaat ud Dawa.  Earlier this year, the U.S. State Department offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his capture or arrest.

After Saeed's offer of assistance, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan declined his help via Twitter.

"We respect the Islamic tradition of help to the needy," said the tweet, "but we can't take Hafiz Saeed's offer seriously."

Saeed founded Lashkar-e-Taiba more than 25 years ago and has mounted many attacks against India as part of a campaign to wrest the Kashmir region from Indian control.  Saeed is accused of masterminding the Nov. 26, 2008 terrorist attacks on the city of Mumbai.  Ten gunmen took part in the multi-day assault, which cost the lives of at least 166 people, including six Americans.  The lone surviving attacker, who faces a death penalty, has accused Saeed of hatching the plot.

Pakistan kept Saeed under house arrest for some months after the attacks but then released him.  He maintains a high public profile inside the country.  In September, he led street protests against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

On April 2, when the State Department announced its $10 million reward for Saeed, it said the bounty had "everything to do with Mumbai and his brazen flouting of the justice system."

Saeed responded to the announcement of the bounty by publicly taunting the U.S. government.  "I am here, I am visible," said Saeed on April 4.  "America should give that reward money to me."

"I will be in Lahore tomorrow.  America can contact me whenever it wants to," said Saeed.  He also expressed surprise that the U.S. did not know where he was, offered to face charges in an American court, and said America had "gone blind" because of its hatred of Islam.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner reacted to Saeed's taunts by stressing that the reward was for information leading to his arrest or conviction, not his location.

"We all know where he is," said Toner.  "Every journalist in Pakistan knows where he is."

Toner said it was unfortunate that Saeed was free to give press conferences, but that the U.S. hopes "to put him behind bars" and is seeking information that would "give the Pakistani government the tools to arrest him."

The $10 million bounty makes Saeed among the top-five most-wanted on the U.S. terrorism list; al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is worth a $25 million reward.  The U.S. also offered up to $2 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Saeed's brother-in-law, who is the deputy leader of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Syrian President Agrees to Allow More Red Cross Aid

Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Tuesday that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) could provide help to those affected by the 18-month-long conflict, provided it "works in a neutral and independent way."

Syria's state media, which reported al-Assad's remarks, said the embattled president met with the ICRC's top official in Damascus for what was described as a constructive meeting.

Up to now, the Red Cross has had a mixed success in treating those left injured or homeless by the fighting in Syria, which has become a growing humanitarian crisis.

A Red Cross spokesman said that Tuesday's talks with al-Assad focused on "issues related to the protection of the civilian population during the conduct of hostilities, such as the importance of access to health care and basic necessities, and also visits to persons detained in Syria."

The international organization is working with the Syrian government's version called the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to step up the humanitarian response amid an ever-widening war that has left tens of thousands of people dead over the past 18 months.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


An Estimated 2.5 Million Syrians Need Humanitarian Aid

BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- The United Nations made a stark assessment Thursday of Syria's ongoing humanitarian crisis in the midst of the ongoing conflict between the government and rebel forces.

U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that back in March, when the civil war was about a year old, an estimated one million Syrians were in need of assistance.

But in returning to Damascus, Amos told reporters Thursday that as many as 2.5 million people, or about 10 percent of Syria's population, are facing a humanitarian crisis, largely due to the escalation of the war by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

Attacks on rebel strongholds in Damascus and Syria's largest city of Aleppo have intensified recently, causing many to flee their homes.  However, many civilians are stuck where they are, caught in the crossfire.

Amos contends that the U.N. has limited resources to help Syrians and appealed to the international community to step up their contributions.  She also asked al-Assad's government to ease restrictions so that aid groups can reach those in dire need of help.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Encourages Donations to Help Iran Earthquake Victims

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Most of the 300 people killed by two powerful earthquakes that struck northwestern Iran last weekend were women and children, according to U.S. officials familiar with the rescue efforts.  As many as 5,000 people were injured.

East Azerbaijan province is primarily inhabited by ethnic Azeris, one of Iran's largest minority populations.

Six villages were completely destroyed while more than half of the 110 villages affected by the magnitude 6.3 and 6.4 temblors sustained damage of at least 50 percent.

While the Iranian government claims it does not need international help in dealing with the humanitarian crisis, the Obama administration says private citizens can make donations without fear of retribution.

The U.S. has leveled various economic sanctions against Iran to punish it for refusing to freeze its rogue nuclear program.  That includes barring businesses from dealing with the Iranian government.

However, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland announced, "Americans wishing to provide humanitarian assistance to Iranians during this time may donate food and medicine without obtaining an Iranian transactions regulations license," meaning exemptions are allowed because the aid goes directly to the victims, not the government.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Five Aid Workers Abducted in Afghanistan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Five aid workers have been kidnapped by armed gunmen in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, according to local officials.

The workers, which include two Western female doctors, are part of a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Medair that specializes in providing humanitarian assistance to regions that are difficult to access.

They were riding on horseback between villages, about 56 miles away from the provincial capital Faizabad, when they were abducted.  The area is not known for heavy insurgent activity. 

This is the same region where 10 aid workers, including six Americans, were killed by a Taliban ambush in 2010.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US and North Korea to Discuss Resumption of Food Aid

Ryan McVay/Digital Vision(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. and North Korean officials will meet in Beijing on Thursday to discuss the resumption of American food aid to the impoverished country. Officials say, however, that a decision is not necessarily imminent.

Robert King, the U.S. State Department’s special envoy for human rights in North Korea, will sit down with a delegation from Pyongyang that includes Ri Gun, North Korea’s deputy negotiator for the stalled six-party talks. The State Department insists that this issue is separate from nuclear talks.

The U.S. halted food aid to North Korea a couple of years ago over concerns that it was being diverted for the military and not reaching starving citizens. The U.S. has insisted on monitors to ensure the food’s delivery, but North Korea has resisted that kind of access.

“We have said all along not only that we need to continue to assess need, but that were we to decide to go forward with this we would need to have much more strict and clear monitoring systems in place,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Sen. Schumer Wants Lockerbie Bomber in Exchange for Libyan Aid

MANOOCHER DEGHATI/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Sen. Charles Schumer says it's time to play hardball with the new rulers of Libya.

The New York Democrat said Wednesday that if the Transitional National Council refuses to hand over Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi to the U.S., Washington should refuse to provide any financial aid to the TNC.

That’s not likely, however, since the Obama administration is preparing to release $1.5 billion in funds Gadhafi kept in the U.S. to the TNC while pressing them to review the al-Megrahi case.

Schumer, who complained two years ago when Scottish authorities released al-Megrahi from custody on compassionate grounds, said, "We put American lives and money on the line to help the Libyan people secure their freedom.  It’s time the Libyan government lives up to its commitment to create a free and accountable society by handing over al-Megrahi so that justice can finally be done."

Many of the 270 people killed when a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988 were Americans returning home for Christmas.  Al-Megrahi, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, was the only person convicted in the bombing and is currently described as close to death at a villa north of Tripoli.

For now, the TNC refuses to give him up.  Libyan Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi said, "Megrahi has already been judged once and he will not be judged again.  We do not hand over Libyan citizens.  Gadhafi does."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US to Provide Additional $28 Million in Aid for Somalia

STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In response to both the food shortage triggered by the severe drought in the Horn of Africa and the United Nations' declaration of famine in parts of Somalia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Wednesday that the U.S. will be increasing its aid to the affected regions.

In addition to the $431 million in food and non-food emergency assistance it has given the Horn of Africa this year, the United States will be providing $28 million in aid for Somalians and those who have sough refuge in Kenya.

Clinton also called on the international community to offer more assistance.

"The United States cannot solve the crisis in the Horn alone.  All donors in the international community must commit to taking additional steps to tackle both immediate assistance needs and strengthen capacity in the region to respond to future crises," she said in a statement.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


First U.N. Airlift Relief Arrives in Kenya for Somali Refugees

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(DADAAB, Kenya) -- The first United Nations emergency airlift flight arrived in the Kenyan capital Sunday to assist the hundreds of thousands of Somalis who have fled the drought and famine afflicting their homeland.

"The giant cargo jet chartered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that landed in Nairobi brought with it 100 tons of tents that are destined for the Dadaab refugee camp complex near the Kenya-Somalia border," the United Nations said in a statement.

Sunday's flight is the first of a series of five scheduled to arrive in Nairobi this week.  Another airlift is scheduled to arrive in Ethopia next week with supplies and up to 20,000 tents, according to the news release.

U.N. agencies requested $1.6 billion to fund relief efforts in the Horn of Africa, which is facing what is being called one of the largest humanitarian crises in 50 years, but have only received half that amount.

ABC News witnessed firsthand the desperate need of the 430,000 Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia.

At the Dadaab camp, a child lies lifeless in his mother's lap, barely able to move.  She clutches him, holding him close.  Another feeds her baby with milk through an IV strapped to his face -- her son is too weak to drink from a bottle.  This is what acute malnutrition looks like.  After travelling for weeks with no food or water, it is the children who suffer the most because they are so young and susceptible to diseases.

The UNHCR estimates that 40 percent of Somali children are now malnourished.

With thousands arriving at this refugee complex every day, the wards are filling up. Even the hospitals have set up camps to cope with the influx of sick children with tents in their courtyards.

One doctor told ABC News that with so many cases of malnutrition, the "program is overstretched."

"Resources are stretched," Dr. Malia Kader of the International Rescue Committee said.  "There's a lot of strain on the system.  We are trying to cope.  The numbers are unprecedented."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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