Transhipment: a lifeline for millions in Syria

Key officials visit Logistics Cluster hubs in Turkey
13 March 2020
Cem Solakoglu (Logistics Cluster), Henrietta Fore (UNICEF) and Silan Reyhanogullari (Logistics Cluster) at the Logistics Cluster hub in Reyhanli

In Syria, more than 960,000 people have been internally displaced since 1 December 2019. That’s more than 10,000 people every single day, joining millions of others across the country, who are in need of life’s basic items: food, water, healthcare, shelter.

In Reyhanli and Kilis, two towns on the Turkish-Syrian border, the Logistics Cluster’s transhipment teams are working hard to ensure United Nations assistance, including critical items such as those mentioned above, reach those in need.

In the Syria response, transhipment services are a lifeline to some of the country’s most inaccessible areas, and every day over 100 women and men work together at the Logistics Cluster’s transhipment hubs to ensure this lifeline continues to run effectively and efficiently. So how does it work? Syrian trucks drive across the border to Kilis and Reyhanli. Here, thousands of kilos of relief items are cross-loaded from Turkish trucks, and sent back across the border to serve areas otherwise unreachable to the United Nations.

In February, 927 trucks transported United Nations humanitarian assistance into northwest Syria via the border crossings at Reyhanli and Kilis, providing vital support to more than 2 million people.

This critical process does not go unnoticed, and the Logistics Cluster has seen an increased interest in its transhipment operations. This week, the cluster hub in Reyhanli welcomed two high-level visits to show first-hand the work that the cluster is doing on behalf of the whole humanitarian community.

The first visit on 3 March, welcomed the Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, Her Excellency Ambassador Kelly Craft, and the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock. Accompanied by the World Food Programme Emergency Coordinator, Brian Lander, they witnessed the incredible work performed by the cluster team on the ground alongside the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Monitoring Mechanism (UNMM).

Three days later, on 6 March, the team received another important visit from the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore. Ms. Fore followed the team’s work during a typical busy day of coordination of cross-loading of aid – from the moment the Syrian trucks arrive empty at the hub, to when they leave for Syria filled with food, medicine, blankets and other relief items and equipment.

At the moment, the scale of the humanitarian crisis is such that the Logistics Cluster is continually increasing daily processing capacity. To do this, the cluster works very closely with local Turkish customs authorities who have agreed to provide surge staff to be available to facilitate the transhipment of trucks late into nights and on weekends to keep up with the extra demand. Thanks to this, the transhipment capacity of the hubs has increased to 100 trucks per day. This cooperation between all parties involved is vital in order to maximise the amount of humanitarian assistance crossing into Syria.


Originally authorised under UN Security Council Resolution 2165 in September 2014, the Logistics Cluster provides coordination and facilitates the transhipment of UN agencies’ cargo being transported cross-border into Syria.

On 15 February, the Central Emergency Response Fund approved the disbursement of over USD 1 million to the Logistics Cluster to ensure that the transhipment operation continues without interruption until the end of the current mandate for transhipment operations granted by UN Security Council Resolution 2504 until 10 July 2020.

More information on the operation can be found here.