For the next six months, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing will be accessible and allow much-needed assistance to reach millions of people in northwest Syria.
Bab al-Hawa has been used since 2014, when the UN Security Council authorized cross-border relief deliveries “across conflict lines”. Around 85 per cent of aid deliveries have passed through Bab al-Hawa from Türkiye since then.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the decision, following talks between UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths and Syrian government officials, said UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq.
The agreement also involved authorization for the UN to use the Bab al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee border crossings for an additional three months, which originally opened earlier this year as part of the emergency response to the earthquake disaster that hit Syria and Türkiye in February.
This news comes as humanitarian needs are at an all-time high after more than 12 years of war and in the wake of the devastating double earthquakes that struck the region in February.
Almost 12 million people – more than half the population of Syria – do not have enough to eat and a further 2.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger, according to the UN.
In June, Mr. Griffiths warned that “twelve years of conflict, economic collapse, and other factors have pushed 90 per cent of the population below the poverty line.”
UN humanitarians warned UN Security Council members earlier this summer that Syrians are facing an “ever worsening humanitarian crisis.”
The northwest region is the last opposition stronghold in Syria, and aid has been delivered there from Türkiye through a cross-border mechanism first authorized by the UN Security Council in 2014.
In July 2023, an initial attempt to renew the agreement at the UN Security Council failed, due to a veto from Russia.
The first draft resolution, tabled by Brazil and Switzerland, called for a nine-month extension and included a paragraph on the expansion of crossline operations, increased funding, enhanced early recovery activities and humanitarian mine action.
Although 13 of the 15 countries in the Council voted in favour of the resolution, it was struck down by a no vote from Russia, one of the five permanent members. China, another permanent member, abstained.
The latest agreement will see the delivery of life-saving supplies to populations in the northwest – despite the worrying funding shortfalls that still hinder humanitarian response.
Ramesh Rajasingham of the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, said In July that “despite these severe vulnerabilities, the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria is only 12.4 per cent funded.” He warned that in the absence of urgent funding, humanitarians will have to make “difficult choices again this year”.
The “unprecedented” funding crisis in Syria has also forced agencies like the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to announce vast cuts to aid provisions, including reductions to monthly food rations.