Aid Groups Warn Of Grave Consequences If Syria Mandate Stops

BEIRUT (AP) — Unless the U.N. Security Council extends its approval of aid deliveries to rebel-held parts of northwest Syria next month, food supplies will be depleted by September in the region that is home to some 4 million people, aid agencies warned Thursday.

Concerns have been rising in recent months that the situation will get worse in Syria’s Idlib province because Russia may force international aid for the northwest to be delivered through parts of Syria under the control of its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Currently, aid enters the Idlib enclave directly from Turkey via a single border crossing, Bab al-Hawa. The U.N. mandate allowing deliveries through Bab al-Hawa ends on July 9, and Russia has hinted it will veto a Security Council resolution renewing the mandate.

The mandate’s expiry this years comes amid rising tension between Russia and the West over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine four months ago.

“This is a moment when it’s absolutely vital that the people of Syria are not forced to pay the price of geopolitical divisions,” David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said during an online briefing Thursday.

A Russian veto would effectively hand Assad control over the flow of aid to the opposition enclave; if that happens, the United States and the European Union have warned they will stop funding.

Miliband said cross-border aid to northwest Syria supports 1.4 million people every month and “remains an urgent prerequisite in the Syria conflict.”

Tanya Evans, Syria country director for the committee, said the global food crisis “is particularly devastating” on Syria, especially Idlib, which is home to many internally displaced by the 11-year war. The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million.

“If this mechanism is not renewed in July, then it is anticipated that food supplies will be depleted by September,” she warned. Evans said non-governmental organizations are estimating they have the capacity to scale out and reach approximately 300,000 people with food assistance — meaning that more than 1 million will have no access to food in September.

Sherine Ibrahim, a Turkey director for CARE, said that if the resolution is not renewed, approximately 80% of protection services provided by the United Nations “will come to a screeching halt.” She warned that the most affected will be women and children.