The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and CARE hosted a joint media briefing to call for the renewal of a critical UN Security Council resolution on cross-border aid into northwest Syria, which expires July 10. The briefing comes at a time when 90% of the 4.5 million people of northwest Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance to survive. Across Syria, 15.3 million Syrians are in humanitarian need, and only **11.6% **of the Syrian Humanitarian Response Plan is funded, nearly six months after deadly earthquakes particularly devastated the country’s northwest region.
Andrea Sweeney, International Rescue Committee’s Head of UN Advocacy, said, “The IRC is calling on the UNSC to reauthorize cross-border assistance for another 12 months at a minimum. Syrians need and deserve decisions based on humanitarian imperatives, not political considerations. These are people, not chess pieces. We are four months out since two major earthquakes and more than 9,000 aftershocks striking Northern Syria and Southern Türkiye leaving 5,900 dead and more than 10,000 injured. It is estimated that 2.7 million people were displaced in Syria, with almost everyone in northwest Syria impacted in some way by the earthquake. While the news has died down, the impact of the earthquake on Syrians has not, it will take many more months if not years to address the damage it has caused.
“False arguments have been asserted that aid can now be delivered across conflict lines from Government of Syria held areas, despite the evidence to the contrary and continued assertions from the Secretary-General that there is currently no viable alternative to cross-border aid which will match the scope and scale of assistance provided through this mechanism. There has been no justification for the restriction of aid. The UNSC’s discussion should be about expanding, not contracting, humanitarian access. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the one remaining UNSC-authorized crossing point, Bab Al Hawa, was out of operation due to destroyed roads used to transport aid, highlighting the risk of having just one formal crossing for the UN. A scale up of the response was supported by an emergency agreement between the Government of Syria and the UN to open two additional crossing points. However, these context-specific, bilateral, and short-term agreements do not provide stable access, and do not lessen the necessity for the UNSC to reauthorize the cross-border mechanism and access through Bab al Hawa for at least another 12 months.
“It is critical to remember that the UNSC mechanism props up the entire humanitarian response in Northern Syria, without it over 1m could lose out on their only source of food, NGOs will lose access to funding, lose access to the UN supply chain for vaccines and the coordination structures that maintain an independent and safe response across all areas of Syria. For Syrians, it means not knowing whether they will get their next meal from, diabetics struggling to get insulin, children going without immunizations that will keep them healthy and prevent them from dying from completely preventable illnesses. As the Secretary General has made clear, reaching all Syrians in need via the most direct routes is not a political choice; it is a humanitarian and moral imperative. The Council must show that it is not willing to put politics above people’s lives. Its job is to protect civilians, not to be the direct cause of suffering and loss of life.”
Abdulkader, IRC Syria’s Protection and Rule of Law Team Leader, said, “Everyone, from the international community, to NGOs, to the local community knows the importance of the cross-border mechanism. Losing it will only add more fuel to the fire in this humanitarian disaster. We can’t even fathom how a decision could be made against people who have already been suffering for over 12 years. Communities we work with just cannot understand why the international community would increase their distress by closing one of their key lifelines for survival while we know there is no alternative in place. It will have disastrous consequences.”
Tareq, an IRC client, internally displaced person living in northwest Syria with his family of 6: “The impact on me and my community will be of such a great scale. We have no resources in this region such as natural or financial. There is no other path which can result in meeting our needs like the resolution.”
Tanya Evans, IRC’s Syria Country Director, said, “Behind this decision there are hundreds of thousands of real people who will feel the effects of the UN Security Council’s decision to renew or not to renew. More than 5,5055 miles from New York, Idlib will still be directly affected by this. The people we support, and in fact many of our own Syrian staff and partners, are quite simply terrified by the prospect of losing access to assistance which helps them keep their families alive, especially in the wake of the devastating earthquake which hit in February. The IRC has been delivering aid in Syria since 2012, and in many respects never before has it been so complex. The devastation caused by the earthquakes has now overstretched these already vulnerable communities and the humanitarian response. In the aftermath of the earthquakes, numerous people outside of camps were rendered homeless as more than 10,500 buildings collapsed across the Idleb and northern Aleppo governorates. Some 1.9 million people today continue to live in camps or self-settled sites in dire conditions, often with limited or no access to health services, clean water or electricity. At such a vulnerable time, any disruption in the humanitarian response, any restriction of aid is unthinkable – it would mean additional loss of life, and further suffering.”
“We are also extremely concerned at what the removal of cross-border assistance would mean for communities’ ability to access the full range of vital healthcare services. The Security Council-authorized cross-border mechanism is critical to ensuring delivery of vaccinations, early warning and monitoring of disease outbreaks and access to pharmaceuticals. In northwest Syria, at least 55 additional health facilities were damaged in the earthquake with 15 health facilities having suspended activities. This came on top of an already extremely fragile health system, where even before the earthquake a third of all hospitals and nearly a half of primary healthcare centers inside Syria were non-functional. At a time when suspected cholera cases have also been continuing to rise, we are extremely concerned at any potential disruption to the response or cutting off of access to healthcare supplies and services provided cross-border.”
CARE’s Türkiye Assistant Country Director, Thomas Bamforth, said, “Humanitarian needs in northwest Syria were acute even before the devastating earthquakes struck in February. Vulnerable communities in northwest Syria have experienced multiple displacements in the past due to the conflict. More than 60% of the region’s population are internally displaced people (IDPs), many of whom have now been displaced anew by the earthquake. The upcoming decision of the United Nations Security Council on cross-border aid into northwest Syria from Türkiye will have massive repercussions on the ability of humanitarian actors to respond to the scale of needs of communities that are already struggling to survive, especially women and girls. Losing the re-authorization to use at least one border crossing to deliver aid into northwest Syria will mean losing the UN operation on which 50 to 80 percent of humanitarian assistance provided relies on, as well as the ability to adequately respond to the needs.
“Re-authorizing cross-border aid for at least 12 months will be vital to continuing to serve the objective repeatedly expressed in the 6-month term resolutions, including the current one, which is to broaden humanitarian activities that are essential to restoring access to basic services and early recovery projects that help people to restore their livelihoods. There are issues that cannot be simply addressed by delivery of packages and trucks or a short-time frame set by a resolution, like investing in women’s self-reliance and their overall participation in the societal framework, or ensuring that women and girls have access to basic sexual and reproductive health services.
“Cross-line and cross-border modalities must not be viewed as competing modalities and increase in one should not signal a reduced need for the other. Pitting one access modality against the other through conditions leads to politicization of humanitarian access. Given the scale of needs in Syria and the constantly changing access constraints, all modalities of access must remain available and be increased for principled humanitarian assistance.
Source : Reliefweb