DAMASCUS (Dispatches) – International aid groups warn that millions of people in northern Syria could be completely cut from lifesaving assistance should a United Nations vote fail to extend cross-border aid operations from Turkey.
The concerns revive those of six months ago before the Security Council eventually extended the cross-border mechanism for another half-year, as demanded by Syria’s ally Russia.
The aid delivery mechanism across Turkey’s border into militant-held Syria at the Bab al-Hawa crossing is the only way UN assistance -- everything from nappies and blankets to chickpeas -- can reach civilians.
The mechanism, in place since 2014, will expire on Tuesday without another UN extension.
“To many, humanitarian aid has become a lifeline, especially people who are displaced,” Ammar Ammar of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) told AFP.
“Without UN cross-border access, hunger will increase,” he said, calling the aid critical for millions “trapped in the northwest”, where militants and allied forces are in control.
The Idlib area is Syria’s last main militant bastion.
Russia has, for years, pressured international organizations to pass exclusively through Damascus to distribute aid throughout the country.
Aid workers say a shorter period makes it difficult to plan delivery.
“Ending cross-border aid now would be equivalent to a death sentence for many of those that depend on it,” Hiba Zayadin of Human Rights Watch told AFP.
Such a move would derail the lifesaving supplies delivered from across the Turkish border into Syria to an average of 2.7 million people who benefitted from it every month in 2022, according to UN figures.
The last UN vote in July only extended the mechanism for six months.
“Council members should be guided by humanitarian imperatives rather than politics,” David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said in a statement last week.
“This resolution is the bare minimum: secure and predictable assistance should be non-negotiable.”
In 2014, international aid could flow to Syria through four border crossings, but later only the Bab al-Hawa route has remained operational.