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Since UN vote, aid still sparse in northwest Syria

Since the UN approved six more months of cross-border humanitarian aid to northwest Syria, deliveries remain minimal and millions of people are in need.
OMAR HAJ KADOUR/AFP via Getty Images

A UN aid convoy of 14 trucks entered Syria through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing between Syria and Turkey on July 28. It's the first since the UN Security Council voted July 12 to extend lifesaving aid deliveries into northwest Syria from Turkey for six more months.

Mazen Alloush, Bab al-Hawa's media director, told Al-Monitor that only one UN aid convoy has entered the area through the Bab al-Hawa crossing since the new UN resolution was announced. Another convoy from the World Food Programme arrived in Idlib on Aug. 4. 

Alloush said that humanitarian needs are clearly being neglected and warned that the aid is insufficient. He went on, “International law is clear and does not require an authorization from the UN Security Council for the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need,” he added.

In July the UN Security Council approved extended cross-border aid deliveries into war-torn Syria for only six months after an initial resolution for a one-year extension was vetoed by Russia.

Raed al-Saleh, head of the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the White Helmets, tweeted July 12, “What happened today at the Security Council" establishes that the council "has become a threat to the lives of civilians around the world by succumbing to Russian blackmail and politicizing life-saving humanitarian aid.”

He added, “By adopting Resolution 2642, which extended the cross-border aid deliveries for six months, the UN Security Council adopted the Russian proposal and linked the continuation of aid to making concessions aimed at supporting the Assad regime, keeping it politically afloat and providing a UN cover for the use of the donor countries’ funds to rebuild the regime’s institutions and prisons.”

Faysal al-Ahmad, a displaced Syrian residing in a camp in Atma on the Syrian-Turkish border, told Al-Monitor, “Had the aid mechanism not been extended, a catastrophe would have hit us. Most of us are unemployed and the poverty rate reached 90% in Syria. I was wounded when the Syrian regime shelled Khan Sheikhoun. I am paralyzed and depend, along with my family, on UN aid. Before the renewal, we had to cook the last kilogram of bulgur we had left.”

He added that many of the camps’ inhabitants rely on this relief as their only choice.

Basma Nawaf, a pseudonym for a doctor residing in the city of Binnish in the north of Idlib, told Al-Monitor, “The halt in supplies would have stopped the ambulance services, which in turn would have led to a terrible health disaster and an unprecedented increase in diseases and mortality rate.”

She explained that there were 56 health facilities in Idlib, including 21 hospitals — half of which are for women and children — 21 primary care centers and 14 specialized centers.

She said that the medical sector in Idlib is in crisis and would have completely collapsed if the UN resolution were not renewed when the mandate ended.

A statement by the Syrian NGO Alliance, a coalition of nongovernmental Syrian organizations, said July 5 that the resolution on the delivery of UN aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing has fallen victim to an international political tug-of-war.

On July 7, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned the Security Council that failure to renew authorization for the aid shipments would lead to a humanitarian disaster for the more than 3 million Syrians living in northwest Syria. 

There are nearly 4.5 million people living in Idlib and the countrysides of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia. More than 50% of these inhabitants are displaced in the different camps located near the Syrian-Turkish border. Most of them rely for their survival on humanitarian aid provided by the World Food Programme.

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