A Catholic aid charity has warned that the war in Ukraine could stop vital aid getting through into Syria.
CAFOD has called on delegates at an international conference in Brussels this week to respond to the increasing humanitarian needs in Syria and the neighbouring region. As fighting continues into the 12th year, more than 12 million people in the country are acutely food insecure, and more than 800,000 children malnourished.
In the north west of the country, nearly two and a half million people rely on aid coming across the border but the UN agreement, which is up for renewal in July, requires the support of Russia.
Howard Mollett, CAFOD's head of humanitarian policy told Premier Christian News: "The impacts of the Ukraine crisis are being felt in Syria as they are in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and around the world. But the impacts are that much more acute because they come on top of a crisis in Syria that's been going on for over 11 years now. At this point, we're seeing the price of fuel, food and other essential items skyrocketing and this is impacting on aid efforts.
"The World Food Programme, for example, has announced that it's going to have to cut its life saving aid food baskets to people in northwest Syria - significantly, 1.35 million people will be affected by this. We're already seeing people in the area skipping meals every day, having to eat less, they're having to sell the fuel that they get as aid to buy food to try and meet that gap. They're doing things like burning old shoes to keep warm and skipping urgent medical procedures. So the situation is really very desperate."
Every month the United Nations sends about 800 trucks full of vital food and supplies across the border into north west Syria, but Mollett said that there are real concerns that the war in Ukraine and the conflict with Russia could stop the deliveries getting through :
"There's about 2.4 million people in northwest Syria who rely on aid coming across the border to them, as the government of Syria blocks aid essentially going from government controlled parts of Syria to assist them," he said.
"The UN Security Council resolution that enables that delivery of aid cross border requires the agreement of Russia and the other Security Council members. That's up for renewal again in July and there's a real, very serious concern around whether or not agreement will be reached this time. The impacts of that would be catastrophic."
It's hoped this week's conference will encourage international donors and governments to pledge more money and resources to the country. Mollett also wants better support for local community-based voluntary networks and civil society groups which are actually delivering aid on the ground:
"CAFOD calls for action by the British government on two fronts. First, the UK should reverse the cuts to its Syria aid budget, which have led to thousands of Syrian children being unable to go to school - exposing them to increased risks of early and forced marriage - and its cuts to support for the livelihoods and basic assistance to Syrian men and women. Second, the British government should take more deliberate steps to ensure UK aid funds reach local Syrian organisations, who understand best their communities and how to get aid to where it is needed.
"The Brussels conference offers the chance for the British government and other donors to renew their commitment to the Syrian people. Will they take it?"