David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, “This vote reveals the chasm between life on the ground in Syria and decision-making in New York. The decision of the UNSC to ignore the clear evidence presented by the UN Secretary General on the need for more border crossings, not more of the same, will be a severe disappointment to people in need in Aleppo and in the northeast. The Security Council has voted to ensure cross-border aid continues to reach millions of  Syrians caught in conflict in northwest Syria. This will save lives in northwest Syria, but it falls far short of what is needed to meet record levels of need after failing to reauthorize two critical crossings, Bab al Salam, to the northwest and Yarubiyah to the northeast and inexcusably does not give full guarantee of a 12 month duration.

“Needs have increased by 20% across Syria over the last year and up to 40% in the northeast alone. With this increase in need comes the need for expanded humanitarian access. It defies reason and principle, as needs are increasing exponentially, that the Security Council would not expand all avenues of aid access for Syrians. The text also puts at risk a 12 month lifespan, forcing a review after 6 months and risking Syrians’ access to life-saving support including food and shelter ahead of harsh winter months. A six month renewal would also prematurely cut short the COVID-19 vaccine campaign.There must be no question of renewal after 6 months

“In the northwest, the humanitarian community has made clear the risks in relying on just one access point, Bab al Hawa, for life-saving UN assistance, including COVID-19 vaccines, to reach millions who rely on humanitarian aid to survive. Violence and insecurity have previously forced Bab al Hawa to close, and ongoing conflict puts at risk the delivery of aid to millions of Syrians. 

“Bab al Salam was a critical gateway to northern Aleppo, home to one of the highest concentrations of displaced people in Syria and a direct route to reach 800,000 internally displaced people with medical supplies, vaccines, and health treatments. As Syrians enter the 11th year of conflict and ongoing violence together with COVID-19 have driven needs to their highest levels, there is no valid reason to limit access. 

“The Council has also once again failed to address the significant and life-threatening challenges populations in northeast Syria are facing in accessing humanitarian assistance. Since the Security Council’s move to close the only crossing for UN-led cross-border assistance to the northeast, al Yarubiyah, needs have increased by nearly 40%, while the IRC and other NGOs have experienced chronic shortages of essential supplies including medicines and reproductive health kits that previously came through the crossing. The COVID-19 response has also been jeopardized as health workers lack resources for testing, PPE and oxygen-- supplies which could be provided through Yarubiyah if reauthorized.

“As the UN Secretary General has made clear, there is currently no viable alternative to cross-border assistance to meet the growing needs across Syria. After more than ten years of failure for the Syrian people, Council Members should be guided by humanitarian imperatives rather than politics, and ensure Syrians in need--wherever they are-- can be reached through the most direct routes. The IRC calls on the Security Council to urgently reconvene to authorize access through Bab al Salam and Al Yarubiyah and Bab al Hawa for 12 months.”