Cross-border humanitarian aid to Syria is vital

After more than ten years of conflict in Syria, millions of Syrians are in need of emergency humanitarian aid, and the number is growing. The UN’s cross-border humanitarian operation between Turkey and northwestern Syria is essential to provide help to some of the most vulnerable people in Syria. This week a Norwegian delegation visited the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to learn more about the UN operation.

Gaziantep. Credit: Ocha
The Norwegian delegation in Bab Al-Hawa. Credit: Ocha

The Norwegian delegation had meetings with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and other humanitarian organisations. The scale of humanitarian need in northwestern Syria is enormous. The UN estimates that there are 2.8 million internally displaced people living in the area. Some 3.2 million people are experiencing food shortages and 3.1 million people are in need of health care.

The UN is carrying out the operation under UN Security Council Resolution 2585, which was unanimously adopted by the Security Council in July 2021. Norway and Ireland are co-penholders for the Security Council’s Syrian humanitarian file and were responsible for leading the intense negotiations that resulted in the unanimous adoption of the resolution. The resolution extended the mandate for cross-border aid delivery by 12 months. The Security Council will later have to take a decision on whether the mandate is to be renewed.

The visit provided Norwegian diplomats stationed in Oslo, New York, Ankara and Damascus with useful insight into how the cross-border humanitarian operation is carried out. UN officials and representatives from various humanitarian organisations stressed the importance of the humanitarian operation for the population in northwestern Syria. The insights gained from the field visit will be crucial both in determining how to target Norwegian ongoing humanitarian efforts in Syria and in Norway’s work as co-penholder on the humanitarian resolution on Syria in the Security Council.

Norwegian humanitarian assistance to Syria

Norway is one of the largest donors to humanitarian efforts in Syria and its neighbouring countries, and has contributed over NOK 15 billion during the ten years the conflict has lasted. This makes the Syria crisis Norway’s largest ever humanitarian effort. In 2021, Norway will provide at least NOK 1.6 billion in support.

Most of Norway’s humanitarian aid is channelled through the UN, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Norwegian humanitarian organisations. In addition to protection and education, support is provided for projects that give the Syrian population access to health services, water and sanitation, and food. Women’s protection and education are also key priorities.

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Facts about the humanitarian situation in northwestern Syria:

  • There are 2.8 million internally displaced people in northwestern Syria.
  • Of these, 1.7 million are living in refugee camps.
  • As of 2 September 2021, there were 43 511 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in northwestern Syria, and the infection rates are rising rapidly.
  • Approximately 1 000 lorries carrying humanitarian supplies cross the border between Turkey and northwestern Syria via the Bab al-Hawa crossing point every month. Most of this aid is in the form of food deliveries.
  • OCHA and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) have reported an escalation in hostilities in northwestern Syria. Between June and the end of August, 86 civilians were killed and 205 injured.
  • Formore information see Situation report from OCHA.

(Source: OCHA)

For more information about the resolution, see Resolution on humanitarian access in Syria adopted following difficult negotiations in UN Security Council