More than 4 million people in northwest Syria will lose access to desperately needed medical and humanitarian aid if the United Nations Security Council fails to renew its mandate for cross-border aid by July 10, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, calling for its renewal.
Under UN Security Council Resolution 2533, only one border crossing, Bab al-Hawa, serves as a lifeline for essential medical supplies and other aid in Syria’s Idlib governorate, where more than half the population has been displaced after a decade of war.
“If this lifeline is cut off, we would see more deaths,” said Abdulrahman M., MSF field coordinator for Syria. “If the flow of medical supplies stops through Bab al-Hawa, we might lose our ability to treat patients, as our current stock can only last three months. And if the supply of food and potable water is reduced, diseases and epidemics would affect the internally displaced people and local population. Some people in this area have been displaced more than 14 times since the start of the conflict, and they are entirely reliant on humanitarian assistance.”
From 2014 until early 2020, the Security Council authorized four border crossings for the provision of humanitarian aid into Syria. This was reviewed and renewed annually to maintain the flow of humanitarian aid into areas that are not under the control of the Syrian government. In 2019 and 2020, Russia and China vetoed the full reauthorization of cross-border aid, removing al-Yarubiyah and al-Ramtha and then Bab al-Salam from the list of approved humanitarian border crossing points. As a result, only one border crossing, Bab al-Hawa, remains active in the current configuration under UNSC resolution 2533 as a formal humanitarian crossing point into Syria. On July 10, the cross-border mandate will expire and the last access route into Syria is at risk of being closed.
The failure of the Security Council to reauthorize this cross-border mechanism would further aggravate the already desperate humanitarian situation in northwest Syria. Humanitarian and medical aid would be drastically reduced and delayed. As one of the few remaining medical providers in the area, MSF would face increased challenges in reaching the most vulnerable populations in northwest Syria. Most hospitals and health facilities would lack the necessary medical supplies to operate, and patients’ lives would be put at risk. Furthermore, the COVID-19 response and vaccination campaign in the area would be jeopardized by the closure of the last remaining border crossing point, including the flow of personal protective equipment, oxygen tanks, respirators, essential medications, and COVID-19 vaccines.