Shutting Syria aid crossing would spell ‘catastrophe’: UN

Wednesday, Jul 06, 2022

BEIRUT: A closure of the last aid corridor from Turkey into northwest Syria’s rebel-held areas would spell "catastrophe" for millions of people, a UN aid official has warned.

"This is one of the most vulnerable populations anywhere in the world," said Mark Cutts, UN deputy regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis. "It is absolutely essential that we keep this lifeline going."

Cutts spoke ahead of a UN Security Council vote to renew the world body’s authorisation to deliver assistance through the Bab al-Hawa crossing before its mandate expires on July 10. More than 4,600 aid trucks, carrying mostly food, have crossed it so far this year, helping some 2.4 million people, says the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Russia, an ally of Damascus, has threatened to veto the proposal to extend the aid mechanism having already forced a reduction in the number of crossings, arguing that it violates Syria’s sovereignty.

"We know things this year are even more politicised than in previous years," Cutts told AFP. "The tensions are very high with the war Ukraine." But he warned that a "failure to renew this resolution will be a catastrophe. There is no alternative currently available that can replace the scale or scope of what the UN is currently doing."

Syria’s humanitarian needs have reached their highest levels since the 2011 onset of a bloody conflict, that has killed nearly half a million people and forced more than half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes. About 13.4 million people across Syria were in need of assistance last year, up from 11.1 million in 2020, OCHA says.

The UN resolution permitting aid deliveries across the Syrian-Turkish border at Bab al-Hawa has been in effect since 2014. Syria’s rebel-held northwest is home to more than four million people, most of whom are displaced and live in poverty.