Image: UNICEF/Amer Al-Mohibany
New York: The UN Syria Commission of Inquiry said on Thursday that not extending current cross-border aid to Syria along the remaining route, would be a “failure of the highest order”. The warning to the Security Council comes as humanitarian needs throughout Syria are at their highest, since the start of the devastating 11-year war.
Calling on the Security Council to ensure life-saving humanitarian aid to Syria, the UN Commission said it would be “unconscionable to consider closing last border crossing when needs are at their highest”.
Time running out
With the current “exceptional authorization” for humanitarian aid delivery through the last remaining border crossing into northwest Syria expiring on 10 July, Security Council members last week “worryingly expressed opposing views on the need to extend this authorization”, said the press release issued by the independent Commission, which was established by the Human Rights Council.
The exception has guaranteed access to desperately needed aid for millions of Syrians, since 2014.
As the country faces its worst economic and humanitarian crisis since the start of the conflict, the international community has the responsibility to “safeguard existing, life-saving cross-border assistance and increase their funding pledges to support this aid”, the statement continues.
According to UN data, 14.6 million Syrians are now dependent on humanitarian assistance, the highest ever recorded. Across Syria, 12 million people face acute food insecurity - a staggering 51 per cent increase since 2019.
In opposition-held northwest Syria, humanitarian conditions are deteriorating due to the ongoing hostilities and a deepening economic crisis.
Furthermore, some 4.1 million people there, rely on aid to meet their basic needs, and 80 percent of them are women and children.
“It is a moral abomination that a Security Council resolution was in itself deemed necessary to facilitate cross-border aid in the face of consistent violations - by the Government of Syria and other parties - of their obligations under international law to allow and facilitate humanitarian relief for civilians in need,” Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the UN Syria Commission, said.
Through the cross-border operations authorized by the Security Council, aid reaches around 2.4 million of them every month, making it a vital lifeline to the population in northwest Syria.
“Aid delivery must be based only on a transparent and impartial humanitarian assessment, regardless of whether it is achieved through cross-line or cross-border modalities. All obstacles to humanitarian aid must be removed. This includes those caused by sanctions, even if unintentionally,” Commissioner Lynn Welchman said.
The work of the Commission
Throughout its 11 years of investigating the conflict, the Commission has documented how hostilities, including attacks affecting emergency relief personnel, transport, and infrastructure, as well as further violence and insecurity, have hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid throughout the country.
It has also found that both the Government and non-State armed groups have repeatedly used humanitarian aid within Syria for political bargaining, and often deliberately withheld it for specific populations, particularly those under siege.
Remember the Syrian people
Reminding that “the funds for humanitarian assistance are simply not sufficient to address the needs and protect the Syrians right now,” Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro, asked the international community to not abandon the Syrian people, who have endured 11 years of devastating conflict.
The recent conflict in Ukraine is also contributing to an unprecedented economic hardship for Syria and its people, with skyrocketing prices coupled with shortages of wheat and other commodities.