UN Security Council to further restrict humanitarian access to northwest Syria

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Statement from Sofía Sprechmann Sineiro, Secretary General of CARE International.

Today’s vote by the Security Council to further restrict humanitarian access to northwest Syria is both reckless and heartless. At a time when humanitarian needs in the NW of the country have never been higher, the Council has effectively shut down the most direct access route to food, shelter and medical assistance that the majority of more than three million Syrians in the northwest depend on for their survival. We fear that this decision will increase the suffering of those in need, who are overwhelmingly women and children. They have been displaced multiple times and have few, if any, coping mechanisms left after more than nine years of conflict. Although humanitarian organisations like CARE and our amazing local Syrian partners will work tirelessly to reach people in need of assistance under these new constraints, but we know there is no substitute for the UN and a limit to how much we can try to scale up to fill the gaps that will appear very quickly. This is a dark day in the 75 year history of the UN Security Council and Syrians should rightfully question all of us for allowing this decision to stand.

It comes on the back of an equally troubling decision the Security Council made in January of this year when it closed the Syria/Iraq border crossing that the UN was using to reach 1.4 million Syrians. In recent weeks CARE joined other humanitarian organisations operating in the northeast of the country to make the case that humanitarian needs were growing, and only by reopening this crossing, could the UN help to scale-up the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the northeast. However, the Security Council squandered the opportunity to reopen this border crossing, leaving the region scrambling to procure essential medicines, medical services and equipment that is desperately needed to respond to the pandemic. CARE continues to provide assistance to communities in northeast Syria, but we remain deeply concerned that we will not be able to sufficiently scale up our work, and the trickle of humanitarian aid coming from Damascus in recent months does not even begin to meet existing needs. All Syrians who need humanitarian assistance are entitled to receive it regardless of which part of the country they happen to live in. We hope that the Security Council will very quickly find a way to put politics aside in both northwest and northeast Syria and ensure all Syrians can enjoy a brighter future.