How a Russian veto in the UN Security Council could threaten aid to war-torn Syria

The fate of the last remaining humanitarian aid route between Turkey and rebel-controlled northwest Syria hangs in the balance as a decision on keeping it open comes up for a vote at the UN Security Council. Moscow could veto the extension, and that would mean more than 4 million Syrians could lose access to humanitarian aid. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The United Nations Security Council is considering the fate of the sole humanitarian aid route into Idlib, Syria, the only region not controlled by the Syrian regime.

    Millions of Syrian citizens depend on that crossing for assistance. It keeps them alive. And the crossing is scheduled to close on Sunday.

    Nick Schifrin report begins in a displaced persons camp near the Syrian Turkey border.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    In Northwest Syria, their childhood has been laid to waste.

    Children whose country has been at war as long as they have been alive pick through filth for metal cans and plastic bottles. They shoulder the burden of a decade-long war, trading scraps of trash for scraps of food to keep them alive.

    Roz with the pearls is 9 years old.

  • Roz, Displaced Person (through translator):

    We collect plastic, so we can feed our siblings. I wish I could go to school and have friends. We come to the dump to come a plastic that we sell for 10, 15 Turkish lira, so we can feed our siblings.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Muhammad Fahd is 12.

  • Muhammad Fahd, Displaced Person (through translator):

    I come to this garbage dump, and I'm here from morning until night to collect as much as I can and sell them to the man to make money and buy food for our siblings.

    When we come to the dump, the smell crushes us, but we have to bring food for our siblings. My wish is to go back to school.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The desperation is multigenerational. As his son looks on, Hussein Maslatou breaks stones. It's back-bending labor for $2.50 a day.

    But here at the camp, other jobs are hard to come by. And in this war, sons help fathers work, and fathers work to keep their children alive.

  • Hussein Maslatou, Displaced Person (through translator):

    Without this, I would not be able to work. And if the aid stops, I will die, and so will my children. May God relieve us.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    That aid comes in the form of handout bread. Everything here is a family affair. His son helps deliver the only food they eat. Without it, Maslatou, his wife and their four children would have nothing.

  • Hussein Maslatou (through translator):

    This aid that comes through Bab al-Hawa, if it closes down, we will die of hunger. There will be a famine. People will die of hunger.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    More than four million in Northwest Syria are at risk of hunger and depend on the Bab al-Hawa crossing, the last remaining humanitarian corridor between Turkey and rebel-held Idlib province.

    It's the only entry point for humanitarian agencies such as the U.N. World Food Program, the only means to supply starving Syrians who live outside government control. In total across the country, the U.N. says 12 million Syrians, more than half the country, are considered hungry.

    This week, health and humanitarian workers rallied to demand the crossing remain open. They say Russia holds in its hand control of Syria's water and Syrian lives. Dr. Salem Abdan is the director of Idlib's Health Directorate.

  • Dr. Salem Abdan, Director, Idlib Health (through translator):

    Stopping aid would lead to a health crisis. At least 56 medical entities in Idlib city alone would have to stop working that serve three million people. The stopping of medical services and vaccinations will lead to a real disaster in Northwestern Syria.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Russia's ally, the Syrian government's approach has already triggered a food disaster. And in a country ravaged by hunger, the Syrian military is now bombing wheat farms.

    It was supposed to be harvest season, but this farm is now a victim the Syrian government's campaign to starve anyone living outside government control. The attacks target crops and people's futures.

    The farms that were spared do produce wheat, but the ground here is arid, and the farmers themselves fled here from homes in government-held territory and now can't feed their families without help, farmers like Zuhair Al Saket.

  • Zuhair Al Saket, Wheat Farmer (through translator):

    Today, we are struggling. There's no bread due the siege surrounding us. We left our vast lands and came to this place.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Since 2011, the United Nations says more than 300,000 Syrian civilians have died, and the conflict has forced more than 13 million to flee their homes. More than half of those remain inside the country, many at camps just miles from the Turkish border.

    In the summer heat, water is a precious commodity, no more so than for Zahraa Al-Khaled, who has too little formula for the two mouths she has to feed, their 8-month-old twins suffering from fevers and diarrhea, suffering from a war they have nothing to do with.

  • Zahraa Al-Khaled, Displaced Person (through translator):

    Our situation is very difficult, especially now in the summer with the heat. We give just enough milk so they can survive, because it is expensive.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    These children's fate could lie with diplomatic votes thousands of miles away. They have been born into tents and their futures have been stolen.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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