UN chief: Syrians will face disastrous winter if Turkish aid is cut
Deliveries across conflict lines inside the country, which Syria’s close ally Russia has lobbied for, have increased, but António Guterres said they could not substitute “the size or the scope of the massive UN cross-border operation”.
Russia has also pushed for early recovery projects in Syria and Guterres said at least 374 have taken place across the country since January, directly benefiting more than 665,000 people, but he said a ” further expansion” was needed.
The council called for a report from the secretary-general on Syria’s humanitarian needs in the July resolution that extended the delivery of desperately needed food, medicine and other aid through the Bab al-Hawa crossing from the Turkey northwest of Idlib for six months until January. ten.
Russia has sought to reduce cross-border aid, with the aim of eliminating it.
In July 2020, China and Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have maintained two border crossing points from Turkey for humanitarian aid northwest of Idlib. A few days later, the delivery of aid was reduced to the Bab al-Hawa crossing point alone for a year, as they had requested.
In July 2021, Russia lobbied for a further cut, eventually agreeing to a six-month extension with another six-month contingent on a report by the secretary-general on cross-delivery progress. But in July this year, Russia insisted on UN clearance for just six months.
Urgently calling for Bab al-Hawa to remain open to UN assistance, António Guterres warned that “a halt to cross-border deliveries in the middle of the winter months would risk depriving millions of Syrians of aid necessary to withstand harsh weather conditions”.
He said cross-border aid “remains a lifeline for millions of people” and that the Security Council’s renewal of the resolution authorizing the continuation of deliveries is not only “critical” but “a moral imperative and humanitarian”.
According to his report, 7.5 million people live in areas not under the control of the Syrian government, mainly in the north with a small number in Rukban in the southeast, and 6.8 million of them are in need of humanitarian assistance due to hostilities and mass displacement.
More broadly, Guterres said, “After 11 years of conflict, the country still has the highest number of internally displaced people in the world, results in one of the largest refugee crises in the world, and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. deteriorate “. The already dire situation is aggravated by the spread of cholera across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic, deteriorating economy and climate and other man-made shocks, he said.
“As a result of these challenges, in 2023 it is estimated that 15.3 million people, out of a total population of 22.1 million, will need humanitarian assistance, compared to 14.6 million people in 2022,” he said. said the general secretary. “This is the highest level of people in need since the start of the conflict” in 2011.
Data on humanitarian needs collected by the UN and partners from more than 34,000 households in July and August revealed that 85 per cent of households were completely unable or insufficiently able to meet their basic needs, an increase from to 75% in 2021, according to the report.
The report also cites a 48% increase in severe acute malnutrition among children aged 6 months to 5 years in 2022 compared to 2021. At least 25% of children under five in some districts are stunted and risk irreversible damage to their physical and cognitive development as well as “repeated infections, developmental delays, disabilities and death”, he said.
Secretary-General António Guterres said winter weather conditions are expected to worsen the situation for millions of Syrians, and among the most vulnerable are those in the northwest who depend on cross-border aid deliveries and face deteriorating humanitarian conditions. due to ongoing hostilities and “economic deepening”. crisis.”
“Today in the North West, an estimated 4.1 million people, 80% of them women and children, out of a population of 4.6 million, are in need of humanitarian assistance to respond to their most basic needs,” he said.