Time is Running Out: Secure Humanitarian Access for Millions in Northern Syria

In 2023, the one remaining border crossing for humanitarian aid into Syria will expire. If the UN Security Council allows it to lapse, the closing of this border will force millions of Syrians into grave danger.

Today, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing along the Syria-Türkiye frontier is the only remaining entry point for UN humanitarian aid to northern Syria. More than four million Syrians rely on this crossing for access to food and health care. But without UN Security Council reauthorization, the crossing is set to close expire.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) urges UNSC Member States to renew the Bab al-Hawa border crossing authorization for at least 12 months. PHR also calls on the UNSC to reauthorize the Bab al-Salaam and al-Yarubiyah crossing points, in order to ensure equal and adequate access to humanitarian aid for populations in need across all of northern Syria. Read more in our latest policy brief.

“The crossing point [in Bab al-Hawa] for millions of Syrians in the north is like the umbilical cord for a baby. It is vital for their survival.”

A physician and the mission director of a Syrian Medical NGO

What We’re Calling For

PHR’s May 2022 policy brief reviews the urgent need for the border crossings to remain open. For the brief, PHR interviewed 20 health and humanitarian professionals and met with six humanitarian organizations who work in the region to gain insight into how life-saving aid currently flows to at-risk communities in Northern Syria, as well as how the potential closure of the lone remaining border crossing would impact Syrians’ health and wellbeing. The brief builds on PHR’s 11 years of rigorous research documenting the destruction of the Syrian health system.

UNSC Member States:

  • Authorize the renewal of cross-border resolution 2165 to maintain the Bab al-Hawa border crossing in northwest Syria beyond one year;
  • Reopen the Bab al-Salam and al-Yarubiya border crossings to meet the demonstrated need of the population, considering Syria’s failing health system and the gravity of COVID-19 pandemic; and
  • Call upon the Syrian government to ensure the delivery of aid and allocation of health services so that the WHO and other UN agencies, as well as humanitarian organizations and local actors, can reach populations in a neutral, effective, and equitable manner.

The Syrian Arab Republic:

  • Comply with minimum standards for coordination of humanitarian health system rehabilitation to avoid inequitable access to health care;
  • Adopt transparent measures to prevent diversion of assistance;
  • Provide donors with accounts of aid distribution in areas under the control of the Syrian government, including COVID-19 access to training, testing, PPE, equipment, treatment, and vaccines; and
  • End attacks on health care workers, facilities, and transports.

Watch: Health Disparities in Northern Syria

Destruction of the health sector is a signature of the conflict which continues to unfold in Syria. It has occurred in the context of one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world. PHR and others have documented deliberate attacks on health care facilities and personnel during the past 10 years of this crisis, but less attention has been paid to the impact of these long years of conflict, human rights violations, and collapse of health systems on health and health care delivery.

PHR’s 2021 report, Destruction, Obstruction, and Inaction: The Makings of a Health Crisis in Northern Syria, describes how the Syrian government’s attacks on health infrastructure in northern Syria and its attempts to impede the delivery of humanitarian aid have driven the creation of a patchwork of health systems that has produced deep disparities in access to care, effectively denying people’s right to health. 

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