Durbin Questions USAID Administrator Powers on Delivery of Humanitarian Aid to Gaza

In today’s State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Durbin urged U.S. Agency for International Aid Administrator Samantha Powers to improve food access for those in Gaza

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, today participated in a Subcommittee hearing entitled “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Request for the U.S. Agency for International Development.”  During the hearing, Durbin questioned the witness, U.S. Agency for International Aid (USAID) Administrator Samantha Powers, about U.S. efforts to bring aid to Gaza as innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire of Israel’s military response following the horrendous Hamas attack on October 7.

Durbin first asked what assistance USAID is providing to the people of Gaza.

“If people in Illinois asked me whether USAID is providing any help in Gaza today, what would be your shorthand answer?” Durbin asked.

Administrator Powers noted that organizations like UNICEF and World Food Program are providing humanitarian assistance funded by USAID, and could offer more support if workers had better access to the region.

Durbin also asked about the types of food aid being delivered, including ready-to-use therapeutic food such as Plumpy’Nut.

“I can recall a time when I was introduced to something called Plumpy’Nut, which is a food supplement for starving children… Is that part of what we’re doing in Gaza?” Durbin asked.

Administrator Powers described the barriers to providing food aid in parts of Gaza, explaining that difficulties in physically accessing the areas in the north have limited the ability of USAID to provide ready-to-use therapeutic food.  While these barriers exist, USAID is attempting to create a humanitarian system where goods can regularly enter Gaza without harming aid workers or civilians so as to provide food products like ready-to-use therapeutic food.  Administrator Powers said that USAID is currently not able to reliably get food resources to vulnerable children in Gaza, although there had been a notable increase in aid able to flow in recent days which she hoped would help and continue.    

“That is a stunning statement,” Durbin replied.  “We know children are starving to death, and the most fundamental, life-saving substance that we can transport to this country, we can’t get to the most serious areas is what I understand you saying.”

Administrator Powers noted that her team is working to improve the humanitarian infrastructure, and this week, more than 433 trucks were able to enter Gaza.  USAID is working alongside UNICEF in distributing ready-to-use therapeutic food, and USAID relies on the humanitarian infrastructure that UNRWA provides while World Food Program helps deliver food. 

The first Senator to do so, Durbin called for a ceasefire deal to be reached between Israel and Hamas in exchange for a release of hostages on November 2.  He has renewed his call as Hamas continues to hold Israeli hostages and for a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid to innocent civilians caught in the conflict. 

As more details emerged about the lack of medical supplies, medications, or safe facilities for those in need of medical attention in Gaza, Durbin also advocated forhospitals in Gaza to be reopened under the supervision of a credible, neutral third party in order to help innocent civilians living in a war zone. In November, Durbin spoke with United Nations (UN) Secretary General António Guterres and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths about the situation. 

Last year, Durbin led 106 of his colleagues in a letter to President Biden calling on his Administration to designate the Palestinian territories for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and/or authorize Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Palestinians present in the United States. In February, the Administration heeded Durbin’s call and authorized DED for Palestinians present in the United States. 

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here for TV stations.