PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — Since 2014, four Syrian cross-border aid sites have allowed the United Nations to assist in providing life-sustaining support to millions of people in Syria. Created in response to the ongoing civil war, Resolution 2533 continues to provide aid to millions of Syrians. This contract was renewed and debated annually, leaving room for yearly changes. Between 2019 and 2020, three of the four Syrian cross-border sites were closed, taking aid away from millions of people. Now, the last border is at risk of being closed and cutting off aid to the northwestern region of Syria.
History of Cross-Border Aid Sites
According to Al-Monitor News, U.N. agencies have been utilizing the four Syrian cross-border aid sites to provide humanitarian aid to areas that are not under control of the Syrian government. Following violence after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, outside aid was critical. The Syrian cross-border sites were set up with Turkey, Iraq and Jordan.
The Syrian government was withholding aid from those outside of its control and using it as a bargaining tool to force a surrender, the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported. In 2019 and 2020, China and Russia did not support the full reauthorization of all of the Syrian cross-border aid sites, closing three of them. The last border remains open at Bab al-Hawa, along the northwestern part of Syria.
The current agreement of Syrian cross-border aid is set to expire on July 10, leaving an upcoming vote for the U.N. Security Council. The council will vote on whether or not to renew the resolution and continue to provide aid to Syrians.
According to a Doctors Without Borders press release, closing the last border would result in, “depriving more than 1.8 million people of food aid, denying more than 2.3 million people access to clean water, denying bread subsidies to hundreds of camps to less than 25% and preventing humanitarian organization from the provision of support.”
According to CSIS, Russia expressed intentions to again veto the resolution, therefore, closing the last Syria cross-border aid site.
Crisis in Syria
In 2011, the Syrian government began to respond violently to antigovernment protesters. The violence resulted in a civil war that, according to U.N. Refugees, currently leaves more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Moreover, 5.5 million people are displaced to neighboring countries, and refugees continue to live in poverty.
A report from the World Bank found that 70% of Syrians are living in poverty. Following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people reported difficulties in obtaining food and fell further into debt. Unemployment remains one of the largest issues in the country. As a result, U.N. efforts increased to provide personal protective equipment to Syrians, support medical care and enforce safety measures.
CSIS reported that moving forward, it is imperative to relay the importance of cross-border aid sites, such as those set up in Syria. The organization also suggested ensuring funds and aid are not directed to the Syrian government. Additionally, strengthening neighboring relationships will further provide aid.
The United States is in support of keeping the Syria cross-border aid sites open. Leaders are encouraged to stand strong with other supporters of the cross-border aid and not back down from their positions. The Syrian cross-border aid provided life-saving humanitarian resources to millions of people. As Syria continues to grapple with a humanitarian crisis and COVID-19, this aid is crucial.
– Monica Mellon