Sat 17 Nov 2018

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Is the “White Helmets” to Face Funding Cuts?

Civil Defense Centers conducting a solidarity stand with the people of Ghouta in the city of Murak in the northern countryside of Hama – March 16. 2018 (Enab Baladi)

Civil Defense Centers conducting a solidarity stand with the people of Ghouta in the city of Murak in the northern countryside of Hama – March 16. 2018 (Enab Baladi)

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The US Department of State has been reconsidering the Syrian support programs, as ordered by the President Donald Trump about a month ago. Cutting the funds offered to some organizations, on top of which is the “Syrian Civil Defense,” known as the “White Helmets,” has taken over the headlines in both Arab and western media outlets, in the frame of guessing the orientations of Washington’s new policy in the area.  

Following the American “CBS News” report, on Friday May 4, that the “Syrian Civil Defense” does not, currently, receive funding from the US; the organization’s Director Raed al-Saleh has denied receiving a direct financial support from Washington or even being officially informed of the cut.

In his interview with Enab Baladi al-Saleh said that the “Civil Defense” did not receive a direct funding from any side; the support took the shape of programs with intermediary organizations and associations, stressing that “all the programs signed by the Civil Defense are still active to the end of their contracts; none have witnessed an imbalance or suspension.”

As for the alternative solutions, the organization has signed new contracts with Turkish and Qatari organizations, which have not been announced yet, according to al-Saleh, who explained that “US is studying the feasibility of the projects, including the ones relating to restoring stability in Syria, which cover part of the Civil Defense activities.”

The US Department of State has, clearly, pointed out that “its partners and alleys have to play a larger part in the stabilization of Syria.”

 

US news agencies have quoted the Department of State as saying that “US endorses the White Helmets work in cooperation with other donor entities,” expecting “the continuity of their work under the additional donations from various sides.”

The US network pointed out that the value of the US-offered funding constitutes about a third of the organization’s total received funding, according to a document by the Department of Interior.

“CBS News” has reported that the Department of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, “is in need for a confirmation from the administration as to green light funding for the White Helmets in Syria by April 15th or the department would initiate ‘shut-down procedures on a rolling basis’”.

The programs have focused on removing the land mines, recovering basic services and providing food assistance to moderate forces and their families, according to the network.

Talking about freezing the funding is not new, for the US President Donald Trump has announced freezing 200 million dollars allocated by US to the efforts seeking revival in Syria, late in last March, aiming to force the Arab countries to participate in funding all types of projects.

Accordingly, the US officials are attempting to find a means to modify the current funding to cover these projects’ costs; they are also trying to get the support of other countries, as to cover some of the costs.

The organization’s teams continue their regular work in the different Syrian areas where they have centers, according to its director, who pointed out that “there are not any new changes to the mechanism or the work’s nature.”

The “White Helmets” action focuses on the medical and humanitarian services in the areas out of the Syrian regime’s control, since its establishment late in 2012, after which its volunteering centers have been expanded structurally, following their debut appearance in the cities of Aleppo and Duma.

The number of the organization’s volunteers is 3470 persons, who spread all over Syria. They have so far saved thousands of Syrians, claiming a wide fame while some of them were featured in documentaries, the most important of which is the “White Helmets” that won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature last year.

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