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Syria: UN continues cross-border humanitarian response amid COVID-19

02 juin 2020

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Idleb Hospital in Idleb Governorate, Syria, 4 April 2020. Credit: OCHA

The United Nations remains concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people across Syria, whose health-care system has been decimated by almost a decade of war.

Yesterday, the Syrian Ministry of Health announced that the total number of cases has reached 123, including 6 fatalities. Local authorities have reported six more cases in north-east Syria, including a death. No cases have been confirmed in the north-west.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading UN preparation and mitigation measures across Syria. Support for increased testing in all governorates in Syria and reinforcing the country’s limited laboratory and case investigation capacities are UN priorities.

Cross-border operations

In related news, the UN cross-border humanitarian response continues to provide life-saving assistance to people in need throughout the north-west, including health items to prepare for COVID-19.

The scale-up has seen an average of more than 1,350 trucks crossing from the two Security Council-authorized border crossing points from Turkey in the first five months of 2020 with food, health items and other critical humanitarian support.

In May alone, 1,781 trucks crossed into Syria – the highest number of trucks to go cross-border since the operations were first authorized by the Security Council in 2014. 

Despite the massive operation, needs remain incredibly high throughout north-west Syria, with 2.8 million people in need, including more than 1 million people living in camps or informal shelters.

Despite relative calm since the 5 March ceasefire reached between Russia and Turkey, mass displacement between December 2019 and March 2020 continues to be a major driver of need.

As highlighted in the Secretary-General’s recent review of cross-line and cross-border operations (S/2020/401), sustained, large-scale cross-border response will continue to be necessary to meet the enormous humanitarian needs for people in north-west Syria. To enable this response, a renewal of the cross-border authorization in Security Council resolution 2504 (2020) for the use of Bab al Salaam and Bab Al Hawa border crossings for an additional 12 months is required. 

Without the necessary cross-border authorizations by the Security Council, civilian suffering will increase to levels unseen in nine years of conflict, including loss of life at a mass scale.

The full and complementary use of all modalities for the delivery of aid remains necessary to access all populations across Syria.