U.N. aid convoy crosses from Turkey to Syria


McClatchy Foreign Staff

Twelve aid trucks crossed from Turkey into Syria on Tuesday through the Nusaybin/Qamishli border crossing in eastern Syria, bringing up the end of a 78-truck humanitarian convoy that marks the first such cross-border aid mission from Turkey approved by the Syrian government.

The convoy began moving across the border last Friday and carried enough supplies -- food, blankets, mattresses, hygiene kits, medicines and medical supplies for 268,000 people. It was organized by an alphabet soup of U.N. agencies: the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Program (WFP), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Elizabeth Byrs, WFP’s spokesperson, said that agency provided rations sufficient for to serve an estimated 50,000 persons one month. Tarik Jasarevic, of WHO, said its contribution included medical supplies to cover the needs of 60,000 people and 1,000 surgical interventions. Another 335,000 displaced Syrians have received medical supplies through a series of airlifts from Damascus.

Patrick McCormick, the UNICEF spokesperson, said that agency had sent a total of 16 trucks loaded with blankets, and family hygiene kits that include water purification tablets, washing liquid, soap, baby rash cream and sanitary napkins.

The U.N. officials said more needs to be done. Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesperson, described Nigel Fisher, the U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator, as “pleased that this U.N. convoy has been authorized to enter.” But Laerke also said both the Syrian government and rebel factions need to continue to be reminded of their obligations under a Feb. 22 Security Council resolution to “enable delivery of humanitarian aid across borders and front lines wherever needed.”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to report to the Security Council Friday on the implementation of that resolution. A copy of his report, obtained by McClatchy in advance, paints a grim picture of the humanitarian crisis.

The report says that 3.5 million Syrians “are now estimated to be in need of assistance in hard to reach areas, an increase of 1 million since the beginning of 2014.”

U.N. officials are expected to call on the government of President Bashar Assad to speed up the approval process for more aid convoys.

“Humanitarian access in Syria remains extremely challenging for humanitarian organizations,” Ban’s report concludes. “Delivering lifesaving items, in particular medicines, remains difficult.”

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