Syria: UN must renew cross-border humanitarian aid resolution

Humanitarian access must be sustained and expanded in northwest Syria, where 4 million people are in need of aid after more than 12 years of war.

MSF aid worker in white vest treats child patient for cholera

AMMAN, Jordan/NEW YORK, July 5, 2023—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to renew the cross-border resolution (UNSCR 2672) for the delivery of humanitarian aid into northwest Syria.

Humanitarian access to northwest Syria must be sustained and expanded through all possible crossing points to ensure the uninterrupted provision of lifesaving aid, MSF said. The region remains isolated after more than 12 years of war, with more than 4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

"It is disheartening to see that people’s crucial access to humanitarian aid has become entangled in political negotiations," said Sebastien Gay, MSF head of mission for Syria. "Failure to ensure a regular, sustainable means of aid delivery puts the lives and health of people at risk. The upcoming Security Council vote on July 10 represents a critical moment for northwest Syria."

Together with other organizations, MSF has repeatedly warned that its ability to respond to emergencies in northwest Syria is compromised by the limited channels through which humanitarian aid can pass. Over the years, the cross-border mechanism through which MSF and other organizations deliver aid to northwest Syria has faced significant setbacks, including a reduction in authorized crossing points from four to one and a decrease in the duration of its renewal from one year to six months.

A devastating earthquake on February 6, 2023, showed how fragile and inadequate access to humanitarian aid is in the region.

“For nearly three days following the earthquake, no additional international humanitarian aid arrived in northwest Syria, leaving people without shelter, exposed to freezing temperatures, and lacking proper health care,” said Gay. “The delayed arrival of lifesaving assistance highlighted the isolation of northwest Syria.”

The cross-border humanitarian channel coordinated and monitored by the UN remains the most reliable and cost-efficient option for MSF. MSF provides and supports a wide range of health and medical services, including for severe burns, sexual and reproductive health care, trauma care, pediatrics, nutrition programs, tuberculosis, vaccination campaigns and mental health care.

To maintain this scale of medical activities and respond to the enormous medical and humanitarian needs, the sustainability of MSF's supply chain is crucial. The threat of non-renewal forces organizations to stockpile supplies excessively, resulting in waste.

It is crucial for the Bab Al-Salama and Al-Rai crossing points, which are not covered by the UN Security Council resolution and were opened following the earthquake, to remain open for humanitarian convoys. However, the extension of these points' opening should not be used to justify not renewing the resolution, as Bab Al-Hawa remains the most reliable, cost-effective, and widely used crossing point.

Discussions about humanitarian aid channels should focus on practical implementation, safety, efficiency, and timeliness. Delivering humanitarian aid from government-controlled areas into northwest Syria (which is called a cross-line mechanism), can complement but not substitute for the cross-border mechanism.

MSF reiterates its call on the UN Security Council to renew the cross-border mechanism. “Independent and impartial humanitarian access to northwest Syria must be ensured at all costs,” Gay said. “It must also remain free from any political interference, as the lives of millions depend on it.”