The heads of UN humanitarian organizations have called on the Security Council to urgently circulate a resolution on the global aid organization’s cross-border operations in northwestern Syria.
Joint statement signed by the leaders of the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), International Organization for Migration (IOM), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) ) and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) underscored the importance of humanitarian assistance, noting that the lives of 4.1 million people are at stake.
“Without UN cross-border operations, millions of people, especially those who have been displaced for many years and repeatedly, will not have access to food and shelter; help cope with harsh winter conditions; surveillance, treatment and testing capabilities needed to contain the spread of cholera; to safe water; and protection from gender-based violence,” the statement said.
The statement said the UN is determined to maintain and expand aid supplies and calls on all stakeholders to ensure unhindered, sustainable and predictable access to northwestern Syria from regime-controlled areas.
“Unlike previous resolutions that extended cross-border operations by 12 months, the latest decision taken by the Council granted permission for only six months. This has resulted in additional logistical and operational challenges, increased operational costs and limited the ability of humanitarian partners to help those in need,” the statement said, adding: “Millions of people who depend on a cross-border lifeline for survival need it. the resolution must be renewed without delay.”
The council requested a report from the secretary general on Syria’s humanitarian needs in a July resolution that extended the delivery of food, medicine and other urgently needed aid through the Bab el-Hawa checkpoint from Turkey to northwestern Idlib by six months until January. 10.
Russia has sought to reduce cross-border aid in order to eliminate it.
In July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have kept two border crossings from Turkey to deliver humanitarian aid to northwest Idlib. A few days later, the delivery of aid was reduced to crossing the Bab el-Hawa for a year, as they requested.
In July 2021, Russia pushed for further cuts, eventually agreeing to a six-month extension with another six-month contingent contingent on the Secretary General’s progress report across the line. But in July of this year, Russia insisted on a UN permit for only six months.
António Guterres, while urging Bab al-Hawa to remain open to UN assistance, warned that “stopping cross-border supplies during the winter months risks leaving millions of Syrians without the help they need to survive the harsh weather.”