New York, NY, January 8, 2020 —
I write to you urgently as the United Nations Security Council has mere hours left to renew the resolution authorizing the UN and its partners to deliver cross-border humanitarian aid to 4 million Syrians. This is a paramount concern to the International Rescue Committee because of the aid we supply to 1 million people across the country. As needs intensify in Idlib and across Northeast Syria, and as tensions escalate dangerously throughout the Middle East, it is vital for the Security Council to step up its commitment to Syrians in need. The last thing the region needs is for the delivery of humanitarian aid to be compromised at such a critical time. Humanitarian aid in Syria is not just a lifeline to millions in need, it shores up stability.
For the past five years, this cross-border resolution has been extended by consensus in light of the harsh and indisputable reality of the humanitarian situation on the ground. The International Rescue Committee, along with our UN and NGO partners, can tell you from the front lines that needs remain, and are growing. The cross-border mechanisms are a linchpin of the response despite changes since last year. 300,000 Syrians – 80% of whom are women and children- were displaced in the last month alone, many for the third, fifth, or tenth time since this horrific war began. The humanitarian community needs more ways to access desperate civilians - not less.
We are not asking for new approaches. We are asking the Council to continue to authorize what has worked for five years, what has ensured that children receive vaccines and women get supplies to aid in the birth of their infants. This resolution – the Council’s sole humanitarian undertaking on Syria – has stood out as a rare but meaningful step to address Syrian needs.
The human cost of not renewing this resolution cannot be overstated. The UN has made clear there is no Plan B. The import of vital medical, food and shelter supplies will slow if not grind to a halt. This is especially true for NGOs operating in Northeast Syria, who rely on lifesaving vaccines, surgical equipment and other aid that UN agencies ship via the critical al-Yarubiyah border crossing from Iraq. Last year, 40 UN convoys with vital goods entered through al-Yarubiyah, supporting a humanitarian response that has reached hundreds of thousands of people. In November of last year alone, supplies transported cross-border supported the safe delivery of over 1,000 babies in Northeast Syria. Should this resolution lapse, supply chains inside Syria will be unable to fill the gaps.
Of equal importance is the message this sends to Syrians. The Council should not and cannot look away from Syrian families who have suffered in unimaginable ways for nearly a decade. I appeal to you step up for innocent Syrians and adopt a resolution authorizing the continuation of aid through the critical crossing points outlined in prior resolutions before the mandate expires on January 10. Syrian lives depend on it. As does the reputation and relevance of the UN Security Council.