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Earthquake disaster latest: fresh snow compounds Syrians’ misery

The search for survivors continues following the earthquake which affected Türkiye and Syria.
© UNICEF/Can Erok
The search for survivors continues following the earthquake which affected Türkiye and Syria.

Earthquake disaster latest: fresh snow compounds Syrians’ misery

Humanitarian Aid

Fresh snowfall in Syria on Wednesday has compounded the already desperate situation faced by millions of people in the five governorates whose lives have been shattered by the earthquake disaster, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the country said.

We have already a very vulnerable situation; people (are) already vulnerable, not capable of taking care of themselves…and all of a sudden comes this,” said El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN Resident Coordinator for Syria.

Progress lost

“All the achievements we had before, anybody who had a small business has lost that business, anybody who could go to school cannot go to school, women who could go to protection centres cannot go to protection centres.

Mr. Benlamlih warned that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance – currently 15.3 million – will have to be revised upwards.

Speaking from Damascus via video link, Mr. Benlamlih told journalists in New York that 10.9 million people in Syria had been affected by the catastrophe in the northwestern governorates of Hama, Latakia, Idlib, Aleppo and Tartus.

Some 100,000 people are now believed to be homeless in Aleppo alone, the humanitarian official continued, as he described how just 30,000 of that number had found shelter in schools and mosques.

Those are the lucky ones,” he said, before stressing that the remaining 70,000 “have snow, they have cold and they are living in a terrible situation”.

El-Mostafa Benlamlih, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Syria.
UN News
El-Mostafa Benlamlih, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Syria.

Aid lifeline latest

Confirming that roads have been damaged that lead to the only permitted cross-border aid route into northwest Syria from Türkiye at Bab al-Hawa, the UN Resident Coordinator for Syria said that he was hopeful that the crossing point would reopen on Thursday.

“Luckily we’re hearing today that the road is opening…we’re hoping that tomorrow, we will be able to deliver something across the border,” he said, stressing that UN aid teams and partners had started working “from the first hour of the disaster” by using prepositioned stocks of food, dignity and medical kits.

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Reaching the people

Also at the briefing, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi echoed the urgent need to get aid to those who need it.

“Our objective is to reach the people, for us, cross-border and cross-line are just modalities complementing each other,” he said.

“The most important thing is that we reach people in this time, people who are desperate for help in this very desperate situation. We see images on TV, children stranded in very harsh cold winter, snowing, it’s really heartbreaking.”

Three days after the double earthquake in neighbouring Türkiye, the situation remains dire and even more precarious in Syria.

UN aid coordination office OCHA also noted that UN staff and contractors working in Gaziantep have also been directly impacted by the disaster, with some looking for their families in the rubble.

More than 50 emergency response and search-and-rescue teams have been deployed to the region and OCHA has also reported that $25 million in emergency funding has been released by the UN to support the response.

Thousands of children and families are at risk after two devastating earthquakes hit south-east Türkiye and Syria on 6 February 2023.
© UNICEF/Can Erok
Thousands of children and families are at risk after two devastating earthquakes hit south-east Türkiye and Syria on 6 February 2023.

The World Food Programme WFP, tweeted that trucks in Türkiye had departed from its warehouses in Ankara carrying food for around 17,000 people impacted who are now seeking shelter in Osmaniye Cevdetiye camp.

The agency said in a press released published later on Wednesday that it planned to reach half a million people in both countries with much needed food assistance.

Tens of thousands already reached: WFP

As of Wednesday morning, WFP had reached nearly 64,000 people in urgent need of food assistance, providing ready-to-eat food rations, family food packages and hot meals. The food being distributed requires no cooking and provides immediate relief for families whose precarious position is made worse by freezing temperatures”, the agency reported.

 In southeast Türkiye the emergency food agency is coordinating with authorities to provide family food packages to people in temporary camps. The camps already house around 44,000 Syrians under temporary protection and now include newly displaced Turkish nationals.

Where there is no longer access to regular supermarkets, WFP plans to provide family food packages to Turkish nationals for up to two weeks while services stabilize.

In Syria, WFP and its local partners have delivered ready-to-eat rations and daily hot meals to 38,000 affected people in shelters.

 “The world woke up to devastating news on Monday. A region plagued by years of compounding crises, faces yet another one, with unimaginable loss and destruction. Immediate relief cannot be delayed,” said WFP Regional Director for the wider region, Corinne Fleischer. “WFP’s strong footprint in both countries enabled us to immediately mobilize our staff, logistics capacity and partners to respond to people’s most immediate food needs.”

And in northwest Syria, the quakes have further complicated an acute humanitarian crisis, WFP said, in which 4.1 million people – or 90 per cent of the population – already depend on humanitarian assistance. Of these, close to three million people have been displaced by conflict – often more than once.

WFP staffer killed

WFP has enough ready-to-eat food inside northwest Syria to assist 125,000 people and is providing this to local partners.

The agency stressed that it “mourns all the lives lost in this tragedy”, which sadly includes at least one of its own staff members.

WHO releases $3 million

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced in Geneva late on Wednesday that it was releasing $3 million from its Contingency Fund for Emergencies for the response, in both countries, said Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"WHO is providing medical supplies, supporting both countries to respond and working with partners to provide specialised medical care."

He said three flights in all were due to bring medical supplies including surgical trauma kits, two of them arriving in the theatre of operations within hours. He said in addition, 77 national and 13 international emergency medical teams made up of health professionals from across the world, were deploying.

He noted the added hazard of Syria's ongoing cholera outbreak, which has infected around 85,000 there already.