UN chief warns of harsh winter for Northwestern Syria if aid from Turkey is cut
The U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday warned in a new report that the already dire humanitarian situation in Northwestern Syria is worsening and if aid flow from Turkey to the rebel-held region isn't renewed next month millions of Syrians may not survive the winter.
Delivery of aid from Turkey to Idlib region in Syria’s Northwest was reduced to just the Bab al-Hawa crossing for a year In July 2020, when China and Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points to help millions of people who live there without help from the Syrian government.
In July 2021, Russia pressed for a further reduction, finally agreeing to a six-month extension with another six-months contingent on a report from the secretary-general on progress in cross-line deliveries. But in July this year, Russia insisted on U.N. authorization for just six months.
Strongly appealing for Bab al-Hawa to remain open for U.N. assistance, Guterres warned that “a halt to cross-border deliveries in the midst of winter months would risk leaving millions of Syrians without the aid needed to endure harsh weather conditions.”
He said cross-border aid “remains a lifeline for millions of people” and Security Council renewal of the resolution authorizing continued deliveries is not only “critical” but “a moral and humanitarian imperative.”
More broadly, Guterres said, “after 11 years of conflict, the country still has the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, drives one of the world’s largest refugee crises, and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.” The already dire situation is compounded by cholera spreading across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic, a worsening economy and climate and other human-caused shocks, he said.
“As a result of these challenges, in 2023, 15.3 million people, out of a total population of 22.1 million, are estimated to require humanitarian assistance, compared to 14.6 million people in 2022,” the secretary-general said. “This is the highest level of people in need since the start of the conflict” in 2011.