Millions of people in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province face “catastrophic” consequences if a cross-border aid operation is shut down during a Security Council vote next month, humanitarian advocates warned.
In Idlib, northwest Syria, much-needed humanitarian relief supplies are brought in through a single border post on the Turkey-Syria border, Bab al-Hawa. However, the UN mandate that regulates the operation will expire on July 10, and its renewal remains uncertain.
About three million people in Idlib depend on UN aid, mostly women and children who have been displaced often throughout the bloody 10-year war.
The aid is delivered to the rebel stronghold every month via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, the only direct link Idlib has to the outside world, and comprises food, COVID-19 vaccinations, medical supplies, and other necessities.
“Most of the region depends on the aid and help from governmental and non-governmental organisations. Therefore, in the light of the lack or even the absence of the most necessities of life aid in terms of food and medical supplies, along with the continued deterioration of the living conditions of civilians, the region would face a different kind of death toll,” Samer Bakkour, lecturer of Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter, told Al Jazeera.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned the UN Security Council about what will happen to Syrian civilians if the border is closed.
“A failure to extend the council’s authorisation would have devastating consequences,” Guterres said.
Russia – the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government – opposes an extension, saying the aid deliveries only benefit the rebels who control Idlib.