“It’s unconscionable to close the final border crossing when it’s needed.”

Failure to offer cross-border aid to Syria, according to the UN Syria Commission of Inquiry, would be catastrophic. The international community must continue and extend life-saving cross-border aid as the country faces its biggest economic and humanitarian disaster since the conflict began.

On July 10, the United Nations Security Council’s emergency authorization for aid delivery through Syria’s last border crossing expires. Members of the United Nations Security Council disagreed this week about whether or not to extend the authority, which has aided millions of Syrians since 2014.

“It is a moral tragedy that a Security Council resolution was required to permit cross-border aid in the face of ongoing violations of international law by the Syrian government and other parties,” said Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the UN Syria Commission.

The humanitarian situation in Syria has never been worse since the conflict began 11 years ago. The number of Syrians in need of humanitarian help is at an all-time high of 14.6 million. The 12 million Syrians who are food insecure is up 51% from last year.

The humanitarian situation in opposition-held northwest Syria is deteriorating due to battles and an economic catastrophe. Aid benefits 4.1 million people, the majority of whom are women and children. The number of cross-border operations sanctioned by the UN has surpassed 2.4 million every month. This is critical for the people of northwest Syria. Syria offers some assistance, but it is insufficient and vulnerable to attack because it crosses active fighting lines.

Aid, whether cross-line or cross-border, must be administered based on an open and impartial humanitarian evaluation. Unrestricted aid is required. “This embraces everyone who was punished, even unwittingly,” Commissioner Lynn Welchman said.

The United Nations Syria Commission is concerned about the decline in cross-border aid distribution. Without the Syrian government’s agreement, the UN Security Council permitted humanitarian supplies into Northern Syria at four border crossings in 2014. Since 2020, Bab al-Hawa has been the only border crossing recognised by the resolution.

“Warring parties have failed to deliver on commitments to provide aid to Syrians in need.” Commissioner Hanny Megally stated, “It’s sad that the debate appears to be focused on whether to close the last allowed border crossing for help, rather than how to provide life-saving relief across the country.”

During its 11-year investigation, the Commission looked into how wars have impeded humanitarian aid across the country, including attacks on emergency relief personnel, transportation, and infrastructure. Humanitarian aid has been used as a bargaining chip by both the Syrian government and non-state armed factions, with aid being withheld from besieged areas. Humanitarians are routinely persecuted, detained, and imprisoned in Syria.

Syria’s diplomatic ties and Security Council contacts have been harmed, but the Ukraine conflict has also brought Syria and its people tremendous economic hardship, including soaring prices and wheat shortages. As unemployment rises, more people are displaced.

During the EU-hosted Brussels VI Conference on Syria this month, humanitarian relief organisations expressed alarm.

Humanitarian aid budgets are insufficient to protect Syrians, according to UN Syria Commission Chair Paulo Pinheiro. “This is not the time to abandon the Syrian people,” he remarked, referring to the 11-year conflict in the country. They’ve never been in greater desperate need.

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