NGOs warn of 'humanitarian catastrophe' in Syria if Russia vetoes lifeline border crossing
The International Rescue Committee (IRC), CARE, and World Vision were among 29 NGOs to issue a joint statement on Thursday warning of an unprecedented crisis in northern Syria if cross-border aid is ended.
Syrian regime ally Russia has threatened to veto the use of border crossings between Turkey and Idlib for vital aid when the UN Security Council meets later in July.
"The consequences of this would be devastating. That area of northwest Syria is almost completely dependent on aid and the vast majority of it is being accessed via the UN border mechanism," Mark Kaye, the IRC's Policy, Advocacy and Communications Director for the MENA Region told The New Arab.
The UN mandate for cross-border aid to northwest Syria expires on 10 July. With no alternative aid routes into Idlib and Aleppo provinces, millions of Syrians - mostly women and children - will be at risk of hunger and disease if the mandate is not extended.
"There are 1.3 million people right now in northwest Syria reliant on the UN for food. To put that in perspective, if the borders were to close tomorrow then NGOs, like the IRGC, would look to see how we could fill these gaps but could probably only be able to cover 300,000 people in terms of food assistance," Kaye said.
"So ever the next three months you could see 1 million people who are currently getting food not getting any."
Russia has repeatedly threatened to veto aid routes into opposition and Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria despite the UN and others warning that the humanitarian situation in Idlib is more grave than ever.
Mark Cutts, deputy UN regional humanitarian coordinator, told Reuters earlier this month that people will die if the borders are closed.
"The crisis is now worse than it's ever been," Cutts warned.