Türkiye, Syria quake: full scale of disaster still unfolding, UN humanitarians warn

Geneva, Feb. 8 (BNA): United Nations humanitarian workers said that the full scope of the multi-earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria is still unfolding, as they stressed the urgent need to intensify search and rescue efforts for the victims and ensure access to life-saving aid. Everyone who needs it.

Thousands of people have died or been injured after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the southern city of Gaziantep early Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude quake several hours later.

Nearly 6,000 buildings have collapsed in the country as well, said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The UN Relief Coordinator and Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, announced that the UN will release $25 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to provide urgent support across the region.

“As people in the region deal with the devastating consequences of this tragedy, we want to tell them that they are not alone…the humanitarian community will support them every step of the way out of this crisis.”

And the spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs added that Syria’s needs are enormous, earlier in Geneva, as he conveyed information from the country’s health authorities stating that thousands of people were killed and injured from earthquakes in Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, the countryside of Idlib and Tartous.

After enduring the initial massive earthquakes, affected communities in Syria faced more than 200 aftershocks.

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“This of course came at the worst possible time for many vulnerable children in those areas who were already in need of humanitarian support,” said James Elder, a spokesman for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“They went to bed as usual, awakened by the screams of their neighbours, by the breaking of glass and the terrifying sound of crumbling concrete.”

Although Syria is in crisis after 13 years of war, there is particular concern for all those affected by Monday’s disaster who live in opposition-held areas in the country’s northwest, often after being forced to flee their homes several times due to heavy fighting. .

“It was indeed an emergency situation in northwest Syria where four million people are receiving humanitarian support. Communities there are struggling with an outbreak of cholera, a harsh winter and of course the ongoing conflict,” Elder was quoted by the United Nations as saying.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) echoed these concerns, saying the situation was dire in 10 Turkish provinces affected by the earthquakes.

In some of these affected provinces in Turkey, 50 percent of people are now refugees, while in Syria, UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh described the earthquake emergency as a “hammer blow” to a displaced population without work and whose savings have depleted.

“We are in the height of winter, we are seeing blizzards and of course, as you know, the war has been going on for over a decade,” he said.

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As international search and rescue teams arrive in the area, coordinated by OCHA, spokesperson Jens Larke emphasized that “there is a window of about seven days where we will find survivors alive. It could happen later, but it is really important that these teams get out there.” As soon as possible “.

Aside from the physical damage to roads and public infrastructure making the work of emergency teams more difficult, the dire economic situation in Syria has also slowed relief efforts.

“The search and rescue effort is currently being hampered by a lack of equipment to clear the rubble,” said Tommaso Della Longa, a spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“There is an acute shortage of fuel throughout Syria and this has hindered the operation of heavy machinery, transportation of personnel and emergency ambulance services.”

In line with the UN Secretary-General’s appeal for all countries to support all “those who are already in dire need of humanitarian assistance”, Larkke issued a heartfelt appeal for assistance.

“It is imperative that everyone see this for what it is: a humanitarian crisis in which lives are at stake. Please, don’t politicize any of this; let’s get help out to the people who need it most.”

So far, emergency teams have rescued around 8,000 people under the coordination of the Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), according to UNHCR.

Lifesaving support has also been provided by UN agencies and other partners on the ground, including the World Health Organization.

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“We have already been able to transport trauma and surgical treatment kits across the border from Gaziantep where we have of course stocked up on supplies and have been able to supply 16 hospitals in Syria, in affected areas in Syria, as of yesterday,” he said. Dr Margaret Harris, WHO spokesperson.

In a special briefing during a WHO Executive Board session, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was now a “race against time” to save as many survivors as possible.

He announced that three chartered flights would depart from both affected countries, with medical supplies including major surgical trauma kits, from the WHO logistics center in Dubai.

“We will work closely with all partners to support the authorities in both countries, in the critical hours and days ahead, and in the months and years ahead as both countries recover and rebuild,” Tedros said. To our sisters and brothers from Turkey and the Syrian Arab Republic, we all stand with you in this sad, indescribably moment.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), about 90% of Palestinian refugee families in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the earthquakes.

The United Nations said that about 438,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 refugee camps in Syria, and northern Syria is home to 62,000 Palestinian refugees in Latakia, Neirab, Ain al-Tal and Hama.

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