SYRIA: U.N. aid to Idlib but south- and northeaster crossings still closed

GENEVA / IDLIB, Syria – The United Nations has sent trucks loaded with humanitarian aid to Idlib, Syria from border crossings with Turkey. None of that aid has reached the regions in North and East Syria, also in desperate need of aid. Burdened by a host of issues – the coronavirus pandemic, an invasion by Turkey, and Islamic State (ISIS) insurgency, upwards of a million internally displaced persons (including former members of ISIS), and a defacto embargo on humanitarian aid after the failure of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) to keep the border crossing with Iraq open – the U.N. and international community seem to be failing to assist Syrians in need equitably.

Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said the aid delivered to Idlib includes food, health, and medical supplies.

“1,365 trucks crossed from Turkey to Idlib last April to provide food, health, and other humanitarian support to northwestern Syria,” Dujarric said at a press conference on Thursday.

He also mentioned that the U.N. remains concerned about the safety and protection of the more than 4 million civilians in the region despite the March 5th ceasefire agreement between Russia and Turkey.

Dujarric also pointed out that the situation in northwestern Syria remained poor and that humanitarian needs are enormous.

In the northeast of the country, however, international aid has all but ceased. In January, the UNSC passed a resolution that excluded the Iraqi and Jordanian border crossings from the approved list of entry points for U.N. aid, despite criticism from international humanitarian aid organizations.

Fears over the ability of the North and East Syria to contain a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in the absence of U.N. aid prompted a host of aid groups called on the World Health Organization (WHO) to lobby the UNSC to reopen the crossings, according to a draft WHO memo made public in late-April.

However, the version of the WHO memo submitted to the UNSC on 28 April, “removed the direct appeal for the Al Yarubiyah crossing to be reopened nearly four months after its use for U.N. operations was shut down by opposition from Russia and China,” according to the New York Times.

The WHO has not commented on the removal of the appeal from the memo.