Open Letter to the Direct General of the WHO — Please go back to UN Security Council and urgently demand the reopening of the Al-Yarubiyah humanitarian border crossing in NE Syria to avert potential Covid-19 holocaust

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has come under fire for “appeasing” governments rather than protecting lives in northern Syria during the coronavirus pandemic, after it removed a direct appeal to re-open the key Al-Yarubiyah aid crossing point from a memo to the UN Security Council.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Director General

World Health Organisation

Re: Please go back to UN Security Council and urgently demand the reopening of humanitarian aid crossing into NE Syria from Iraq at Al-Yarubiyah

Dear Director General

I write this open letter to request that you immediately revert to your organisation’s original position and demand the UN Security Council reopen the humanitarian hub at Al-Yarubiyah on the Iraq border to enable the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries into North East Syria to help save hundreds of thousands of lives at risk now from Covid-19. You rightly described the potentially catastrophic impact the coronavirus could have on Syria, citing the shortage of medicines and supplies for the 2.1 million in the North East and your original communique stated that NGO partners wanted the 15-member Security Council to urgently reopen Al-Yarubiyah to the mostly Kurdish-held northern part of the country to address that crisis. However, the amended communique to the UNSC dated last Tuesday deleted that demand presumably to appease Russia and China.

Over four months ago Russia and China did secure the closing of that border crossing for aid deliveries in the Security Council in the face of uproar from humanitarian organisation who pointed out this would cost many lives. However, at that time no one had any idea that Covid-19 would pose a massive and sustained threat that makes the reopening of that crossing potentially a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of defenceless civilians now. I am well aware that your organisation did not close that crossing and that Russia and China did through the leverage their veto power gives them in the Security Council. However, unless you raise your voice and challenge the contempt shown by President Putin and President Xi Jinping for Syrians what hope for the future of WHO if you stand with these powers and not with these incredibly vulnerable people facing the lethal threat posed by the coronavirus?

This latest crisis over humanitarian aid once again highlights the decision by your organisation with other UN agencies to hand over control of humanitarian aid operations to the Assad regime in 2012. Since 2011 Syria has been subject to the most comprehensive sanctions on record but one must ask why have they had little direct impact on the regime. Of course assistance from Russia and Iran partly explains that but a better answer was provided by the leading humanitarian Dr Annie Sparrow in the journal ‘Foreign Affairs’ when she asserted that:

“….a good part of the blame lies with the UN-led humanitarian aid effort in Syria. UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) have permitted the Assad regime to take control of the $30 Billion international humanitarian response, using donor funds to skirt sanctions and subsidise the government’s war effort. The bulk of these billions in diverted funds are from the same Western governments that imposed the sanctions. The Syrian government’s ability to hijack the most expensive humanitarian effort on record signals a need for the UN to reform its system for providing aid, which defers to sovereign states even when they have declared war on parts of their own population.”

This compelling testimony from a primary witness who knows the UN aid operation in Syria having worked there, including saving thousands of children’s lives through vaccination programs, is also a reminder in the light of the Al-Yarubiyah crossing affair that NO reform has taken place since that article was published in 2018. Worse still, the WHO has allowed itself apparently to be drawn in even more into the egregious campaign against civilians being pursued by the Assad regime backed by its allies Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, and major supporter China, as your failure to maintain your position suggests in not continuing to demand the reopening of the Al-Yarubiyah crossing so essential to help protect civilians from the Coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Sparrow identified a number of areas in her article where the WHO was failing the people of Syria but none more so than its involvement with the Syrian Ministry of Defence in effectively funding the latter in weaponising blood supplies:

‘The Assad regime’s use of UN entities to by-pass sanctions is exemplified by the WHO’s use of donor funds to purchase blood transfusion supplies on behalf of the Syrian ministry for defence, which controls the national blood bank. The WHO thus effectively subsidies the same ministry that bombs civilians, attacks hospitals and withholds life saving aid in opposition-held areas, even while the Assad regime blames the sanctions rather than its own targeting of civilian infrastructure and hospitals for its public health crisis.’

Surely against that background you have an enormous moral responsibility to act immediately on the Al-Yarubiyah crossing in very loudly demanding its immediate re-opening. Furthermore, at a time when the future of the WHO is at stake you should immediately instigate urgent reforms to reassert the neutrality and independence of your operations in Syria not least when the decision to allow the Assad regime to take control of UN humanitarian aid has helped fund a brutal scorched earth military operations that helped lead to the deaths of over 500,000 people, forced half the population to flee their homes, create an IDP and refugee crisis of historic proportions and the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet.

Yours sincerely



‘Syria — The Impossible Revolution’




Filmmaker & cofounder Esperanza Productions ( & latest award winning documentary is Bringing Assad To Justice — see here

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Ronan Tynan

Ronan Tynan

Filmmaker & cofounder Esperanza Productions ( & latest award winning documentary is Bringing Assad To Justice — see here

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