New York, NY, June 21, 2021 — New International Rescue Committee data shows a concerning deterioration in northwest Syria, including rising food and water needs, and child labor and marriage, just over three weeks away from the expiration of the UN Security Council Syria cross-border aid resolution. Syrians are running out of options and families are making decisions no family should have to make. Meeting these needs and averting a greater crisis requires the UNSC to not only renew, but expand the cross-border humanitarian response.
The new data, collected from 1,642 Syrians from 65 communities in northwest Syria:
- 80% of displaced Syrians in the northwest have had to flee at least six times and some as many as 25 times. Ongoing conflict, including attacks just last week in Afrin, are continuing to drive displacement, uprooting lives and livelihoods and driving poverty, and one out of ten internally displaced people reported that a family member has been physically injured as a result of direct conflict while being displaced.
- 47% reported that child labor is common in their area –21% reported that it may start from 12 years of age and less. 53% of participants reported knowing about at least one early child marriage incident in their community.
- 26% decrease in stable and positive income yielding activities (e.g. salaried work, self-employment, etc.) and a 67% increase in unstable income yielding activities (casual labor).
- Food or Cash for Food was identified as the top unmet need, and 57% reported NOT having water (for drinking or daily use) when needed at any time of the day.
David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said, “Reaching all Syrians in need via the most direct routes is not a political choice; it is a humanitarian imperative. The authorization of no less than Bab al-Hawa, Bab al-Salam, and Yarubiyah for 12 months would ensure aid -- including food, essential medical supplies and COVID-19 vaccines -- can reach Syrians experiencing the most acute needs. In the last year alone, the number of people in need in Syria has risen 20%, with over 13 million people currently in need of aid. The humanitarian case is clear and indisputable. These stark humanitarian realities must drive Security Council action on Syria. The Council has failed the Syrian people too many times. The time for excuses is over; it is time for action to protect this vital lifeline for millions.”
The worsening situation in the northwest requires the UN Security Council to both renew Bab al-Hawa - the sole remaining border crossing - and to reauthorize the Bab al-Salam crossing, which allowed aid to quickly and reliably reach many of the 1.3 million people in northern Aleppo before its closure last July. Populations in the northwest can only be reached with aid via the cross-border aid routes. If the UN Security Council does not reauthorize these routes, over three million Syrians risk losing aid.
A failure to renew the resolution would also put a halt to the UN-led COVID-19 vaccination campaign for people living in northwest Syria. Northwest Syria received its first batch of coronavirus vaccines through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing at the Turkish border last month, but the continuation of this campaign relies on renewing the UN resolution.
The growing crisis in the northeast since the end of the UN cross-border response should be a wake-up call for the Security Council. Since the UNSC’s decision to end cross-border access to the northeast via the Yarubiyah crossing in January 2020, needs have risen 38% - more than any other part of Syria. Reauthorizing Yarubiyah is critical to the humanitarian response.
Reductions in cross-border response harm those most in need -- displaced populations, women, children, and people with disabilities. Northwest and northeast Syria are home to the most intense levels of need, as a stagering 81% and 69% of the population, respectively, are in need of aid. When needs go unmet, women and children are at higher risk of gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, and exploitation and abuse.
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.