PRESS RELEASE / January 5, 2023

Humanitarian catastrophe in Syria looms as UN resolution on lifesaving cross-border aid set to expire 

The UN Security Council must urgently extend the resolution that enables the UN to deliver lifesaving cross-border humanitarian supplies to more than 4 million people in northwestern Syria. The resolution is due to expire on Tuesday 10 January. 

Failure to renew it would spell disaster for those who depend on this aid to survive, particularly the 1.8 million people displaced by the conflict living in makeshift shelters and camps in dire conditions. It would cut off food and vital supplies to these communities in the middle of winter and have a devastating impact on the health sector and efforts to combat an outbreak of cholera. 

Dr Hala Alghawi from MedGlobal said: 

“It would be impossible for any other mechanism to match the scale of the UN cross-border response. Most of the organizations working in Syria rely on logistical support and funding from the UN – particularly for medical supplies. Healthcare facilities are already under-resourced and overstretched with just around 322 out of 544 functioning – that’s less than 60% that are operational with cross-border support. If cross-border aid should end, many more will close and there will be an entire collapse of the healthcare system, coupled with harsh winter conditions, the cholera outbreak and lack of food assistance the impact would be catastrophic.”

Last July, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have renewed the provision of cross-border aid via Turkey for one year, instead forcing through a six month renewal. As an ally of the Syrian regime Russia has repeatedly exploited its veto power to push through compromises over cross-border aid – reducing the number of  border crossing points authorized for deliveries over the past few years. Bab al Hawa is the last remaining lifeline for millions of civilians. There are fears that a Russian veto could put an end to cross-border aid permanently.

Humanitarian organizations have described cross-border aid as “indispensable” warning of “catastrophic consequences” should the aid be cut off. Doing so would also grant a greater role in aid distribution to the Assad regime, which has an appalling track record of weaponizing humanitarian aid, deliberately starving its own people and bombing civilian aid convoys. 

Nada Al Rashed, a volunteer with The White Helmets, Syria’s Civil Defence said: 

“The idea that the Syrian regime could be relied on to distribute aid after using humanitarian assistance as a weapon of war is not just unacceptable, it is an insult to victims and all civilians. People in the northwest should be thinking about how to rebuild Syria, ways to bring the regime to justice or helping displaced people living in camps to rebuild their homes destroyed by Russian and Syrian attacks. Instead, we’re thinking about how we can ensure that vital supplies of medications and babies’ milk reach those in need. Having access to these necessities should be a basic human right, not something up for debate at the UN Security Council. ”

Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign said: 

“Once again the fate of civilians in Syria lies in the hands of Russia which has displayed a chilling indifference to their humanitarian needs and has repeatedly used aid as a bargaining chip at the UN. Members of the UN Security Council must not allow Russia to continue to use the lives of civilians as pawns in its cruel political games. The international community must establish other ways to guarantee that life-saving aid will continue to reach those in need.”

For more information or to contact spokespeople on the ground available for interview please contact: [email protected]