Over the next year, up to three million people in Syria are expected to be in need of food assistance, according to a June 2012 joint assessment by the United Nations and the Syrian agricultural ministry. On September 12, 2013, the State Department released a Fact Sheet describing the U.S. humanitarian aid reaching Syria.
The Treasury Department’s FAQ about its Syria sanctions program and guidance to the public on sending remittances, goods and services, and charitable assistance to Syria, issued on August 8, makes it clear that U.S. NGOs can operate there without having to obtain a specific license from Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
For example, one question asks:
Can I give donations to NGOs to help the Syrian people?
Yes. U.S. persons can give a charitable donation to U.S. or third-country NGOs, but U.S. persons cannot send such a donation directly to Syria or a Syrian entity without a specific license in order to try to protect the donations from being misused. U.S. depository institutions, including banks, and U.S.-registered money transmitters, are allowed to process transfers of funds to or from Syria on behalf of U.S. NGOs and third-country NGOs in support of the not-for-profit activities described in OFAC General License No. 11.
These not-for-profit activities include: (1) activities to support humanitarian projects to meet basic human needs in Syria, including drought relief, assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, and conflict victims, food and medicine distribution, and the provision of health services; (2) activities to support democracy building in Syria, including rule of law, citizen participation, government accountability, and civil society development projects; (3) activities to support education in Syria, including combating illiteracy, increasing access to education, and assisting education reform projects; and (4) activities to support non-commercial development projects directly benefiting the Syrian people, including preventing infectious disease and promoting maternal/child health, sustainable agriculture, and clean water assistance.
To assist with giving, Muslim Advocates has issued a FAQ available on the web and in PDF handout
format about charitable giving to NGOs operating in and around Syria, as well as sending remittances to family and friends affected by the current strife.
“If timely assistance is not provided, the livelihood system of these vulnerable people could simply collapse in a few months’ time. Winter is fast approaching and urgent action is needed before then,” says Abdulla BinYehia of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.