As time passes by, we get more insight into the impact of the devastating earthquake that hit the country and fear that the most significant disaster is yet to come. The UN Reliefweb draws this gloomy picture:
Many buildings have collapsed, and people are still expected to be under the rubble. Many buildings are unsafe, and the risk of collapse is high. In Aleppo, areas are closed for safety reasons and providing humanitarian assistance is challenging.
People stay on the streets, in cars, shelters, sports stadiums, mosques and churches. But there are also people who, despite the unsafe state of their homes, do not dare to leave.
Another disaster is unfolding whilst people have lost everything, and many do not have the means to provide basic needs.
The availability of essential products is limited. Shelters cannot always offer warm clothes, food and water. Given the temperatures, especially at night, it is urgent that people have access to a safe and warm place to stay.
Syria is in a fuel crisis, and fuel is not always available or affordable. An immediate emergency demand for petrol is requested to support rescue workers and humanitarian organizations.
Mental health and psychosocial support are essential when dealing with the crisis. The continuous aftershocks are causing widespread fear and anxiety among children, older people, women and young people.
The U.S. will send aid to the Syrian people, not the regime
Secretary Anthony Blinken said his administration has U.S.-funded humanitarian partners coordinating lifesaving assistance. We’re committed to providing that assistance to help people in Syria recover from this disaster, just as we have been their leading humanitarian donor since the start of the war in Syria itself.
“I want to emphasize here,” Blinken said, “that these funds go to the Syrian people, not to the regime. That won’t change. But as I said, we can work with humanitarian partners in Syria.
Pope calls for support for Syria-Turkey quake victims
Pope Francis offered his prayers for the thousands of victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey on Wednesday and called on the international community to continue to support rescue and recovery efforts, Reuters reported.
“I am praying for them with emotion, and I wanted to say that I am close to these people, to the families of the victims and everyone who is suffering from this devastating disaster,” he said
“I thank those who are offering help and encourage everyone to show solidarity with these countries, some of which have already been battered by a long war,” he added at the end of his weekly audience in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.
Assad receives more calls and cables from leaders.
President Bashar Al-Assad received more messages of solidarity and support from the leaders of Arab and foreign countries due to the earthquake that hit Syria.
Tunisian President Kais Saied voiced sincere solidarity and sympathy, affirming Tunisia’s readiness to stand by the Syrian people in this disaster and to provide aid and fraternal assistance to overcome its consequences.
Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua, also expressed his country’s solidarity with the Syrian people and its support for the efforts exerted by Syrian institutions to overcome the impacts of this disaster and provide relief to the areas affected.
Calls also came from the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of the Republic of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, President of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un.
King Abdallah King Abdullah of Jordan, also called Assad, extended deepest condolence to Syria and families of the victims of the earthquake, wishing the wounded swift recovery.
The king expressed Jordan’s solidary with Syria’s leadership and people over the devastating disaster that led to tragic loss of causalities and properties.
The King affirmed Jordan’s readiness to provide necessary assistance in rescue and relief operations for those affected by the earthquake.
China calls for lifting sanctions against Syria
China called for the immediate lifting of US unilateral coercive measures on Syria to provide emergency aid to those affected in the devastating earthquake and avoid further deterioration of its humanitarian situation.
“The US has long been engaged in the Syrian crisis. Its frequent military strikes and harsh economic sanctions have caused huge civilian casualties and taken away the means to the subsistence of the Syrians”, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning’s on a regular press conference cited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China,
Mao Ning added, “the US troops continue to occupy Syria’s principal oil-producing regions. They have plundered more than 80% of Syria’s oil production and smuggled and burned Syria’s grain stock. All this has made Syria’s humanitarian crisis even worse”.
The Spokesperson underscored that the U.S. should put aside geopolitical obsessions and immediately lift the unilateral coercive measures on Syria to unlock the doors for humanitarian aid to Syria in the wake of the catastrophe.
U.N. cross-border aid to Syria could resume on Thursday – U.N. official
A senior U.N. aid official said they were hopeful that deliveries of critical cross-border aid from Turkey to northwest Syria could resume on Thursday after being paused since a devastating earthquake struck the two countries this week.
“We are hoping that tomorrow we will be able to deliver something across the border,” U.N. Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi, said during an online press briefing.
“We have a glimpse of hope that the road is accessible and we can reach the people,” he said.
In Syria’s quake-hit Aleppo, survivors try to reach the missing
Reuters reports that after Monday’s earthquake brought down his family’s building in Syria’s battle-scarred second city of Aleppo, Youssef managed to reach one of his trapped relatives by phone, hearing voices despite a bad line.
Since then, the 25-year-old has been standing in near-freezing weather by the rubble, unable to get through again.
“I have been waiting for news of my father, my mother, my brother, my sister and her son. Nothing is known about them so far,” he said.
“I talked to them and heard their voices, but unfortunately, as you can see here, they’re very slow at work, and they don’t have enough equipment,” he said of rescue efforts.
On the streets, men, women and children wrapped in blankets huddled on sidewalks around fires on Wednesday morning. Many slept in cars and vans parked near where their homes once stood. Others lay on the cold ground.
Why is it so hard to help Syria’s earthquake victims?
The earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday brought to the forefront an issue Syria has battled with for years: access to foreign aid, The Washigton Post reported.
The Syrian government has been sending the fighters and civilians from the areas it reconquered to the already impoverished Idlib province, up against the border with Turkey, and the region is now swollen with the displaced. In addition to regular shelling by government forces, the disease was already ravaging the area.
This corner of land heavily relies on aid — even before the earthquake, 4.1 million required humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. This assistance is hampered by restrictions imposed by the Syrian government, which also disallows some international organizations from accessing the area. Aid must also be approved by the Turkish government, as it flows to the rebel-held pocket only through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border.
“But Turkey is now completely overwhelmed with dealing and helping their own people that we cannot realistically expect to prioritize focusing on facilitating aid to the Syrians,” said Mark Lowcock, former head of U.N. humanitarian affairs.
Delivery of aid to the enclave has been dependent on a vote every six months by the U.N. Security Council, but in 2020 Russia forced all the aid border crossings to close except for Bab al-Hawa, describing the aid as a violation of the sovereignty of its ally, the Syrian government.
Fears mount every six months that Russia will veto the final crossing, which the United Nations deems the only viable route to deliver lifesaving aid, including food, water, shelter and medical assistance.
Now with the earthquake, the roads to Bab al-Hawa are severely damaged and the cross-border response has been disrupted, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, citing local sources. The road connecting the city of Gaziantep to the crossing is in one of the most damaged areas and is currently inaccessible.