Northwestern Syria: Millions will lose access to vital medical care if humanitarian crossing closes

MSF relies on the crossing between Turkey and northwestern Syria to transport supplies and will be forced to scale down assistance if UN Security Council fails to renew the cross-border resolution.

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News update

July 13: UN Security Council renews cross-border resolution for six months only

On July 8, 2022, Russia vetoed a draft resolution that would have extended cross-border aid between Turkey and Northwestern Syria for another year. On July 12, after several rounds of negotiations, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) renewed the resolution for six months instead of 12 months, as originally proposed. Any further extension will depend on another UNSC  vote in January, 2023. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission for Syria, Francisco Otero y Villar, gave the following statement about the decision:

The decision of the United Nations Security Council to renew the cross-border aid mechanism from Turkey to Syria is absolutely vital and essential for people in northwest Syria. However, doing so for six months only is insufficient and concerning. A six-month extension does not provide a sufficient [response to] the kind of support that people in northwest Syria can expect and that they desperately need.

Today, the Bab Al-Hawa crossing on the Syria-Turkey border is the only approved humanitarian crossing point into northwestern Syria. [The six-month extension] provides much-needed respite but no security beyond this short timeframe. Any further extension will depend on a new Security Council vote in January 2023.  

The newly adopted resolution (2642) will expire in the dead of winter, when the harsh weather exacerbates existing humanitarian needs. Every winter, freezing temperatures, floods and snowstorms take a heavy toll on the health and lives of Syrians. Cross-border aid will remain as vital then as it is now. There is no viable alternative. 


AMMAN/NEW YORK JULY 5, 2022—Approximately 2.4 million people in northwestern Syria, more than half of whom are displaced, will lose access to desperately needed humanitarian and medical aid if the United Nations (UN) Security Council does not renew the cross-border resolution, set to expire on July 10, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, calling for its renewal.

Failure to renew UN Security Council Resolution 2585 will shut down the Bab Al-Hawa crossing on the Syria-Turkey border—the last remaining humanitarian crossing point into northwestern Syria. In 2021, more than 99 percent of MSF’s humanitarian supplies into northwestern Syria were shipped through Bab Al-Hawa. If the resolution is not renewed, most hospitals and health facilities would lack the necessary medical supplies to operate, and patients’ lives would be put at risk. MSF will be forced to revise the support it provides in northwestern Syria and will have to significantly scale down its response.  

“The ever-looming threat of non-renewal of [not renewing] the cross-border resolution hangs over people in northwestern Syria against the backdrop of overwhelming humanitarian and medical needs and a severe economic crisis,” said Claire San Filippo, MSF head of mission in Syria. “The UN Security Council must renew lifesaving cross-border operations. If this lifeline is cut off, access to basic food, water, and health care [for] millions will be drastically reduced. This will lead to preventable deaths.” 

According to the UN, out of 4.4 million people living in northwestern Syria, 4.1 million need humanitarian aid and 3.1 million need health care assistance. Access to health care remains challenging for many due to insecurity, distance to health facilities, and the cost of services or transportation. Every month, cross-border aid supports 2.4 million people.  

MSF’s humanitarian and medical response is currently made possible through the cross-border resolution, which ensures the availability of vital medical aid into the country. MSF’s teams have been present in Syria since 2011, but since late 2020, they have become increasingly reliant on World Health Organization (WHO) convoys, crossing into northwestern Syria through the humanitarian corridor at Bab Al-Hawa, to transport MSF’s essential medical aid into the area. 

Sending aid through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing point remains the fastest, most effective, transparent, and least-expensive way for humanitarian aid to cross into northwestern Syria. There is currently no viable alternative to this mechanism. MSF calls on permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security Council to renew the UNSCR cross-border Resolution 2585 for the provision of humanitarian aid through Bab Al-Hawa into northwest Syria. 

Eleven years of conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, the worsening economic crisis, sanctions, and the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine on the price of food and gasoline have fueled an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria. According to the UN, more than 14.6 million people in Syria need humanitarian aid, an increase of 1.2 million from 2021. Food prices have skyrocketed to the highest ever recorded average price since monitoring started in 2013. Ninety percent of people live under the poverty line. 

To address the medical needs in Idlib and Aleppo governorates, where the health care system remains very fragile, MSF supports seven hospitals, including one specialized burns unit, 12 basic healthcare centers, 11 mobile clinics, and water, sanitation and hygiene needs in 100 camps for internally displaced people.  

All Maps[English] UN border-crossings in SyriaMAP-27-6-2022