• More than 1 million people who depend on the Bab Al-Hawa border crossing for humanitarian aid are at risk of losing life-saving healthcare without renewed approval from the UN Security Council
• 98% of women and nearly 90% of men interviewed by the IRC reported having difficulty finding medicines as a major barrier when trying to access basic health services
• The UN-led cross-border aid mechanism must be re-approved for at least 12 months to prevent a rise in preventable deaths
New York, NY, July 6, 2022 – On July 10, the UN-led cross-border mechanism in northwestern Syria will come to an end unless the UN Security Council urgently re-approves the resolution this week. Failure to renew the mechanism will have a devastating impact on millions of Syrians currently dependent on cross-border aid to access critical health services, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has warned.
In 2021, 1.3 million people received life-saving health assistance through the Bab-Al Hawa crossing, the last remaining cross-border channel in danger of being closed. Nearly 60% of outpatient consultations across the country depend on cross-border assistance. In the northwest of the country, the area most dependent on cross-border aid, more than 3.1 million people currently need humanitarian assistance to access basic health services.
New IRC data recently collected from communities in northwestern Syria between March and April highlights how dependent people in the region are on humanitarian aid to receive health support. 98% of the women surveyed, and nearly 90% of the men, reported having difficulty finding medicines as a major barrier when trying to access basic health care. This is an increase of 50% and 30% respectively from the same period last year.
For the 63 hospitals, 170 primary health centers, 42 specialist care centers and 45 mobile clinics currently providing health services in northwestern Syria, the UN cross-border mechanism is simply a lifeline – if not re-authorized, humanitarian INGOs like the IRC will fill in the gaps. cannot replenish medical supplies and services.
One of IRC’s clients, a 42-year-old displaced Syrian, in northwestern Syria told us:
“Just talking about ending humanitarian aid scares me. My worries increase and I begin to imagine myself on the street and not getting my meds. My family should beg so we can afford to buy them privately. I hope they [the UN Security Council] will continue to allow the passage of humanitarian aid to Syria and that it will not stop. We are counting on them to continue this support and save us from a potential disaster.”
David Miliband, IRC President and CEO said:
“The IRC teams and our health partners work tirelessly in Northern Syria to ensure essential medical services and supplies reach those who need them most. The impact of 11 years of conflict has left the Syrian health system struggling to cope. Across the country, Syrian communities now lack adequate functional health facilities, essential medical supplies or qualified personnel. When cross-border access to northeast Syria was closed in January 2020, the negative impact on people’s daily lives was immediately noticeable. Millions of people are now at risk of losing access to healthcare when they need it most.
For Syrians living in the northwest of the country, failing to reauthorize the only remaining border crossing could be the biggest attack on healthcare since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis. That is why the IRC is unequivocal in our appeal to the UN Security Council to put principle above politics. The UN cross-border mechanism must be re-approved for 12 months to ensure that more lives are not unnecessarily lost.”
Notes to editors
• We have spokespersons in the region available to conduct interviews.
• The new IRC survey of communities in northwestern Syria, conducted between March and April this year, showed a significant increase in the number of people reporting difficulties accessing health services compared to the same period last year. Nearly all of the women interviewed said no drugs were available, a 50% increase from last year, while the number for men increased by 30%, with 90% of men citing a lack of drugs as a barrier to obtaining of access to health services.
• Further consequences of non-renewal include significant disruption to life-saving health services. These include the treatment of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, mental health and psychosocial support, treatment of malnutrition for children and sexual and reproductive health care for women and girls.
• The IRC and its partners in northwestern Syria reached more than 474,000 patients in 2021 through 20 health facilities: 2 hospitals – including 1 COVID isolation hospital, 4 mobile clinics, 13 primary health care centers and 1 mental health center. In addition, we have an ambulatory system with 10 ambulances, 6 of which are dedicated to the COVID-19 response, transporting suspected cases to testing facilities and then transferring them for treatment. In addition to our ambulances, our response to the pandemic includes implementing infection, prevention and control measures in all IRC supported health facilities; training staff to protect themselves and their patients from the virus; and continue to raise awareness of the pandemic in the communities where we and our partners operate. The IRC also provides specialist care to vulnerable women and girls, pregnant women and the elderly; provides psychosocial support to help children and their families overcome emotional difficulties; and helps thousands of Syrians earn an income through emergency cash benefits, business grants and training.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Elias Abu Ata, Regional Senior Media and Communications Manager, IRC Middle East and North Africa Phone: +962 (0) 779 981 853 | Email: [email protected]
IRC Global Communications Phone: +1 646 761 0307 | Email: [email protected]