Since the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the international community has placed great emphasis on the delivery of aid to Syria to provide support to millions of people and respond to the humanitarian crisis. The efforts by the international community to protect the civilians and deliver core humanitarian assistance are crucial. One of the key instruments to contribute to these efforts is the cross-border assistance mechanism, which will be authorized by a resolution of the United Nations Security Council. This mechanism ensures the effectiveness and sustainability of humanitarian assistance. However, UN Resolution 2672, which authorizes cross-border aid, will expire on July 10. The challenge of getting assistance into Syria and the risk of a subsequent veto in the process of renewing UN resolutions is a matter of concern for the international community.
Reduced Border Crossings to Deliver Assistance
In 2014, the UN Security Council adopted UNSCR 2165, which authorized the delivery of international aid to northwestern Syria. Initially, aid deliveries to Syria were carried out through four border crossings. The Al-Ramse crossing between Syria and Jordan, the Bab Al-Salam and Bab Al-Hawa crossings with Turkey, and the Al-Yarubiyya crossing with Iraq were used for the delivery of humanitarian assistance. These border crossings were the main transit points for humanitarian operations.
In 2019, the number of border crossings was first reduced to 2 following the objections of Russia and China. Later, Russia agreed to keep only the Bab al-Hawa (Cilvegözü) border crossing open for another year. The UN Security Council resolution, which was conditionally renewed for six months in 2021, was extended for another six months on January 9 this year, as it had been previously. The requirement to renew the resolution every 6 months has severely limited the extent and effectiveness of the humanitarian response in Syria. The earthquake in Syria exacerbated the humanitarian crisis and increased the needs in Northwest Syria. It is estimated that 91% of the 4.5 million people living in northwest Syria are in need of assistance, of which 3.3 million are food insecure..
Call of the United Nations
On July 4, United Nations officials visiting the Syrian city of Idlib called for a 12-month extension of the cross-border assistance mechanism for the opposition-held northern part of the conflict-torn country, which was devastated by a deadly earthquake in February.
"If we want to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people in northwest Syria, there is no substitute for the UN's cross-border resolution in magnitude and scope," said David Carden, UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria crisis.
Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, Director of Operations for the Middle East and North Africa at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), noted that the February 6 earthquakes have worsened the situation in Syria. 330,000 people have been displaced and thousands are deprived of basic humanitarian services.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths called on the Security Council yesterday to extend the aid agreement by 12 months. "A 12-month authorization will enable us and our partners to achieve better humanitarian outcomes in the months ahead. It is as simple as that," he said. The UN wants to extend the agreement providing cross-border aid from Turkey to Syria, but this time for one year.
The Threat Posed by the UN Security Council's Non-Renewal of the Cross-Border Mechanism
The UN Security Council's threat not to renew the cross-border mechanism hinders the continuity of assistance at a time of growing humanitarian and medical needs in northwest Syria. Non-renewal will inevitably worsen the ongoing crisis.
The Significance of the Renewal of the Cross-Border Assistance Mechanism
For more than 12 years, the humanitarian crisis in Syria has threatened the lives of millions of people. In northwest Syria, women and children constitute the majority of those in need of humanitarian assistance. Almost all of this population can only survive on cross-border life-saving assistance. Emergency humanitarian assistance covers basic needs such as essential medical supplies, food, and shelter. It improves the civilian population's health, safety, and living conditions and mitigates the impact of the humanitarian crisis. However, for the sustainability and effectiveness of this assistance, the cross-border assistance mechanism needs to be renewed.
- The Vulnerability of Access to Assistance
The cross-border aid mechanism has a critical role in ensuring access to various parts of Syria. However, this mechanism has shortcomings and vulnerabilities. In particular, humanitarian aid is frequently blocked at crossing points, making it challenging for aid to reach those in need. Therefore, renewing and strengthening the cross-border assistance mechanism will help address these vulnerabilities in access.
- Egalitarian, Impartial, and Independent Aid
The cross-border assistance mechanism should be based on impartiality, independence, and equality principles. The distribution of aid should be based on the priority and urgency of those in need. These principles ensure the fair and effective distribution of aid and build the trust of the civilian population.
The renewal of the cross-border assistance mechanism is critical to sustainability. The safe access of humanitarian workers to crisis areas ensures the sustained delivery of aid to those in need. This ensures effective coordination and rapid delivery of humanitarian assistance.
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation has been providing aid since the beginning of the crisis
IHH has been playing an active role in humanitarian aid since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011. It conducts a wide range of activities and aims to meet the fundamental needs of people. IHH carries out various projects and programs in the sectors of food security and livelihoods, non-food assistance, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and health, education, and humanitarian diplomacy. Syria response is coordinated from 11 centers and offices. There are 1367 staff and volunteers in the coordination mechanism. As of the end of 2022, IHH has delivered $616,086,477 to Northwest Syria.
- Food Security and Livelihoods: IHH supports people who are food insecure. In this context, 100,038,000 food packages were distributed. In addition, 270,827,404 pieces of bread and 27,667,070 canned and ready-to-eat meals were provided. Furthermore, 150,172,000 kg of flour and 17,072,000 kg of beans were delivered. A total of $300,030,886 has been provided in the food security and livelihoods sector since the beginning of the war.
- Non-Food Items: IHH has been providing clothing to the region since the first day of the war. To date, IHH has established 35 humanitarian aid stores. 25,266,579 pieces of clothing, 3,964,909 shoes and socks, 5,067,433 household goods and textiles, and 32,550,000 kg of fuel were provided. In the non-food aid sector, $132,288,522 pieces were delivered to those in need affected by the war.
- Shelter: IHH provides shelter for refugees and displaced populations. In this context, 161 shelters were established. 15,878 houses were provided to those in need. In the shelter sector, $57,322,553 worth of assistance was realized.
- Protection: IHH provides protection to orphan children, who are among the vulnerable groups. 27,993 Syrian children are included in the orphan sponsorship system, meeting their basic needs and supporting their protection. A total of $69,144,435 was provided in the protection sector for orphans and children in need.
- Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Health: IHH conducts efforts on water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and health services. 46 health centers and hospitals were supported to facilitate access to healthcare. In addition, 4 prosthesis centers were established to support individuals with disabilities. 15,030,298 medicines, medical supplies, and devices were provided. A total of $38,287,960 of assistance was provided.
- Education: IHH carries out efforts in the field of education. 2 universities have been opened. 46 schools and 1 school for the disabled were built. In addition, 37 schools were constructed to improve educational opportunities and 12 schools were restored and renovated. In the education sector, $19,012,121 worth of aid was provided for people deprived of their right to education.
- Humanitarian Diplomacy:
Through humanitarian diplomacy, IHH contributes to the establishment of policies in international arenas in accordance with human rights and humanitarian principles. With specific efforts in this field, IHH strives to find solutions based on peace, justice, and humanitarian values.
- To prevent war, massacres, and killing
- To deliver humanitarian assistance to civilians living under siege
- Evacuating civilians and injured people under siege
- To inform the world about human rights violations during the war
- To raise the voices of Syrians who have suffered injustices to international organizations
IHH acts as an intermediary and mediator between conflicting parties in war and crisis zones. In addition, IHH carries out diplomatic efforts to liberate the lives of innocent people who have been unlawfully arrested and taken hostage. It shares information and cooperates with organizations such as ECOSOC, OCHA, UNRWA, UNHCR, OIC, OICHF, MSF, Red Crescent, and AFAD. It keeps the Syrian crisis on the agenda through international meetings in various parts of the world.
IHH Accelerated Humanitarian Aid Efforts in Syria after the Earthquake
After the disaster, IHH immediately started humanitarian aid efforts for the people affected by the earthquake in Syria. Search and rescue, emergency aid and damage assessment activities were carried out by 15 different teams with 180 participants. Under the coordination of Syria Babusselam Office, 40 personnel and 60 volunteers provided emergency assistance. In the logistics center where incoming donations and materials were stored, soups and hot meals were prepared and packaged in line with the demands. Needy families staying in tents and whose houses were damaged were provided supplies.
- Breakfast and meals for 1,278,960 people
- 716,703 pieces of bread
- 423,664 units of water
- 22,236 food packages
- 840,993 kg flour
- 626,583 dresses and shoes
- 1.702.610 heating material
- 2,538 stoves
- 1,550 carpets
- 125 kitchen equipment
- 7,782 blankets
- 165 pieces of wicker
- 225 pieces of sponge
- 37.921 furniture and furnishings
- 374 tents
- 20,951 cleaning materials
- 2,580 diapers for patients
As the humanitarian crisis in Syria continues, the renewal of the cross-border assistance mechanism is of utmost importance. This mechanism ensures the effectiveness and sustainability of humanitarian assistance.
The delivery of aid to Syria is at risk of being vetoed in the process of renewing UN resolutions. The delivery of aid through a limited number of border crossings and the potential impact of a veto limit the scope of humanitarian operations and prevent millions of people from receiving the essential assistance. It is crucial for the international community to work to overcome these obstacles and ensure the full and unhindered distribution of aid in order to find a solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Otherwise, further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Syria will be inevitable.
IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation calls on the UN Security Council to adopt an urgent resolution to renew the cross-border aid mechanism. This resolution will ensure that humanitarian aid can continue uninterrupted and reach those in need. This resolution must be adopted urgently to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Syria.