In one month, the United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the UN to provide cross-border aid to Syrians through two crossing points from Turkey into Northwest Syria will expire. The needs of the four million Syrians who live outside of the Government of Syria’s control-- including urgent health kits, vaccinations, support to maternal health and now COVID-19 supplies-- can only be met through aid that is coming across the border.  

COVID-19 makes it even more critical for Security Council members to ensure the Syria cross-border resolution is renewed. The IRC has already seen devastating impacts of the Council’s decision in January to cut cross border aid coming through the Yaroubiya crossing point in the Northeast: 13 health facilities are at imminent risk of closure or severe disruption to services, shipments of essential pharmaceuticals and other aid deliveries have been cut and millions in dollars of funding for programs has been lost.

With six cases of COVID-19 and one death confirmed already in this area, and far higher numbers likely undetected, the Northeast has been cut off from this lifeline at a time when the global pandemic demands the deployment of all available resources. In addition to the UN’s vital humanitarian aid through the cross-border points, NGOs and health actors depend on the UN’s access to supply critical personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies for health programs. The World Health Organization has warned that the impact of COVID-19 in Syria could be truly catastrophic. Syria’s health system has already been devastated by persistent attacks on healthcare facilities. The Council should reverse this decision with urgency and restore access to the Northeast before it is too late and more lives are needlessly lost. 

David Miliband, CEO of the International Rescue Committee stated, “The world is in the midst of the worst pandemic we have seen in a hundred years. The global focus must be on scaling up healthcare, not tearing down humanitarian aid infrastructure. Ensuring humanitarian aid reaches those who need it most in Syria is a humanitarian issue and the true test of whether basic humanitarian principles will be upheld by UN Security Council members. The Council must not fail the Syrian people particularly given COVID-19 which makes cross-border aid, and the delivery of health supplies, more vital now than ever. The Council should renew the resolution and reauthorize the crossing points into the Northwest as well as open up vital access to the Northeast that was closed in January. Now is the moment for leadership from the Security Council – there is no room for failure. ”