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UN, rights groups urge more Syria aid a year after deadly quake

By AFP - Feb 07,2024 - Last updated at Feb 07,2024

Boys stand by tents pitched near a building that was damaged by the February 6, 2023 earthquake that devastated northern Syria and Turkey, in the town of Jindayris in the northwest of Syria's Aleppo province on February 3 (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — The United Nations and rights groups called for increased aid for Syria on Tuesday, one year after a devastating earthquake struck Turkey and the war-torn country, battering its impoverished population.

"Billions of dollars in damage aside, the human toll of this disaster is incalculable. Many people remain displaced to date, waiting for solutions and shelter," two senior UN officials said in a joint statement.

Syria was already reeling from an economic crisis, but "the earthquakes exacerbated the situation further yet", said UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Adam Abdelmoula, and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi.

On February 6, 2023, a pre-dawn 7.8-magnitude tremor killed nearly 60,000 people in Turkey and Syria.

According to Damascus, the earthquake killed more than 1,400 people in government-controlled areas of Syria, while more than 4,500 died in areas held by opposition factions in the country's northwest.

"Today, a staggering 16.7 million people require humanitarian assistance. This shocking number comes against the background of a bleak funding outlook and conflicts raging across the globe," the UN officials said.

"This trend must urgently be reversed," they said.

“Our 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan was just over 36 per cent resourced by the year’s end,” they said, pleading for more funds.

The earthquake also damaged medical facilities, especially in the country’s northwest.

“Even before last February, the healthcare system in northwest Syria was struggling, with underfunded medical facilities and limited services,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement.

The earthquake damaged 55 health facilities, leaving them unable to function fully, MSF added.

More than 265,000 people in northwest Syria lost their homes in the quake and 43,000 have yet to return to their houses, with most of them languishing in shelters, according to UN data.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) decried the country’s “catastrophic humanitarian needs” warning that Syria risked “being a forgotten crisis”.

In 2023, the IRC’s Syria aid programme recorded a “62 per cent funding shortfall, and the situation is anticipated to worsen with further aid reductions expected throughout 2024”, IRC added.

“We are urging the international community not to forget about Syria,” said Tanya Evans of the IRC.

Since 2011, Syria has endured a bloody conflict that has killed more than half-a-million people and displaced millions.


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