Hatay, Turkey

02 March 2020

Note to Correspondents: Statement by Kevin Kennedy, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis - on the cross-border UN mission into northwest Syria

Today, we conducted a one-day inter-agency UN mission across the border from Turkey into northwest Syria where the needs for humanitarian aid and protection are growing more desperate by the day.

With nearly one million people displaced in Idlib and surrounding areas since 1 December, the vast majority of them women and children, it is imperative that the UN uses all modalities to reach people in need, whether from inside Syria or across borders.

The mission was a successful step to better understand the humanitarian realities on the ground and assess the feasibility of a sustained UN presence in Idlib.

The interagency mission included representatives from IOM, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, OCHA and WHO[1]. The UN team visited the Kafr Lousin camp for internally displaced people where we met with community leaders, partner NGOs and displaced people, including women. The mission then visited Bab al-Hawa hospital where we met health workers and patients before returning to Turkey via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.

We witnessed first-hand the dire humanitarian consequences of the ongoing violence in Idlib. People are traumatized and frightened and urgently need better access to shelter, food, sanitation, basic health services and protection. Local aid workers are doing a heroic job, but they are exhausted and are themselves being displaced and killed. All parties to the conflict must adhere to their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The ongoing cross-border humanitarian operation is essential to meeting the requirements of Syrians who urgently need assistance. More than 2,150 trucks carrying aid crossed from Turkey into northwest Syria in January and February. This is more than double the number of trucks crossing during the same period in 2019. But we need to do even more and scale up our presence on the ground.

People in northwest Syria first and foremost need the violence to stop.

[1] International Organization for Migration, United Nations Population Fund, the UN’s Refugee Agency, UN Children’s Fund, World Food Programme, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and World Health Organization.