WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY: The state of U.S. aid - KMSP-TV

WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY: The state of U.S. aid

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Many may think of Aug. 19 as just another Monday for the history books, but it was also World Humanitarian Day -- a day to commemorate those who have lost their lives providing aid and celebrate service.

The United Nations first declared Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day in 2008 in honor of 22 aid workers who were killed in a bombing at the UN headquarters in Baghdad on that day in 2003.

Now, the Muslim Brotherhood's fight against Egyptian military leaders serves as a reminder of the need for humanitarian assistance there and elsewhere.

FOX 9 News spoke with Brian Atwood, former administrator of the United States Agency for International Development under the Clinton administration, about the global need and American involvement.

Q: Given the situation in Syria and all over the world, how important is the U.S.'s role in humanitarian aid?

A: It's obviously the most important country in terms of providing assistance to people. We've got more than a million refugees from the Syrian conflict, and quite obviously, we've got a very serious situation in Egypt today. The United States has the logistical capacity and the resources to help these people.

Q: Yesterday on ABC's "This Week," Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison spoke on the situation in [Egypt]. Here's what he said:

"I think it's really more a matter of saying, 'We will not fund this coup and this bloodshed. If you get your act together, we can re-establish the relationship. So, it's not like it's a done deal. It is a iterative[sic] process which, I hope, results in the cessation of this violence."

What are your thoughts on that?

A: Keith's position is a reasonable one, but I think this is such a delicate situation; we need to be very careful. Already, the Obama administration has suspended aid to the military. The other part of this is humanitarian and development aid. We have not yet even suspended that. I think we have to watch this situation very carefully on the ground. We do not want the United States, any more than it's already become, to be part of the problem.

Q: You mentioned some of the numbers about the need for humanitarian aid -- the number people in refugee camps in need plus the number of Syrian people who have fled their homes in their country. Has that put an extra strain on agencies?

A: If it doesn't get any worse than it is, I think we have the budget to handle it.

Q: The UN this year launched "The World Needs More." It's a first-of-its-kind project that will use social media to raise money for aid. What do you think of that strategy?

A: Social media has become extremely important in making sure that the aid actually gets to people. There are more people now in places like Africa that have cell phones, and they're parts of networks that can actually report on whether or not he aid is actually getting to people. So this helps us to make sure that this program is a lot more accountable. So, we've invested some money in trying to make the infrastructure of these countries and their evacuation plans a lot more efficient. That will save lives and it will save money in the long run.

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