The UN’s Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator reported to the Security Council, Thursday, that cross-border humanitarian deliveries from Turkey last month reached more people in northwest Syria than at any time since operations began more than five years ago.
Nearly 950,000 people have fled their homes since December of last year as the Syrian military launched an assault against the last rebel-held stronghold in the country, according to Ursula Mueller who briefed ambassadors on aid efforts in Idlib.
“The cross-border modality is absolutely essential to our response in the northwest. People in Idlib cannot currently be reached at this scale, in such a timely and direct manner, through any other means,” she said.
As Syrians continue to flock to overcrowded areas near the Turkish border, amid sub-zero temperatures in which children have frozen to death, a massive humanitarian operation is underway in the region.
The UN Secretary-General has described the crisis as a “man-made humanitarian nightmare”.
Aid organizations had initially sought US$336 million for the region but last week the appeal was increased to US$500 million.
Ms. Mueller reported that through the cross-border mechanism, food assistance for roughly 1.4 million people was delivered during January. Health supplies for almost half a million people, as well as non-food items for more than 230,000, were also brought in.
“That is more than in any other month since the cross-border operation was authorized in 2014”, she said.
Despite these efforts, families are not getting enough food and clean water, while heating is a struggle, said Ms. Mueller, who spoke with a group of Syrian women humanitarian workers last week.
While the situation in Idlib is “worsening by the day”, it is but the latest devastating development in a war that has lasted nearly a decade, said the head of the UN Children’s Fund.
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore urged Council members to “speak with one united voice” and stand up for the children of Syria.
“We desperately need a cessation of hostilities in northwest Syria. In the meantime, we need regular humanitarian pauses to allow civilians to move safely out of harm’s way if they can and wish to do so. This would also give aid workers the room they need to provide urgent care for people in need and conduct impartial assessments, including across borders,” she said.
Meanwhile, renewed hostilities in northeastern Syria, have left civilians extremely vulnerable and has led to further displacement.
Overall, nearly two million people there require humanitarian assistance.
The UN and partners were delivering aid, including medical and surgical supplies, through the Al Yarubiyah crossing point with Iraq up until early January of this year.
However, it was removed as an authorized crossing point following a Security Council resolution, prompting the UN to seek alternate means.
In a report, the UN Secretary-General stated that the Tal Abiyad crossing with Turkey would be “the most feasible option”.
“Yesterday, in response to our request for overland access to north-east Syria, we received general approval from the Government of Syria to transfer medical assistance by land to all parts of the country,” Ms. Mueller told the Council.
“This is a welcomed development and one which we hope will indeed translate into all types of required medical supplies and equipment reaching all people in need in the north-east, wherever they are located.” (Source: UN News)