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As death toll climbs, Syrians continue to wait for aid

February 8, 2023 at 12:09 pm

Personnel and civilians conduct search and rescue operations in Idlib, Syria after 7.7 and 7.6 magnitude earthquakes hits Turkiye’s Kahramanmaras, on February 07, 2023 [Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency]

Over two days since a massive earthquake hit Turkiye and Syria, international aid is not reaching northwest Syria.

In the early hours of Monday morning a 7.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed homes and infrastructure. The death toll from the two countries is almost 10,000.

In Syria, the earthquake hit both government-controlled territory and the last area held by the opposition, the northwest.

Some 4.5 million Syrians live in northwest Syria, roughly 60 per cent of whom have already been displaced by the war which has been ongoing for over a decade.

Most of the population live in poverty and already relied on aid. There is a malnutrition crisis, a lack of clean water, adequate food and a serious cholera outbreak.

Towns in northwest Syria witnessed massive destruction, with one Syrian journalist on the ground telling MEMO that the city of Jindires was completely flattened.

Thousands of Syrians are still trapped under the rubble as Syria’s limited search and rescue teams continue to search.

Whilst the international community has come together and pledged emergency international aid to Syria and Turkiye, delivering aid to northwest Syria is problematic.

There is only one crossing between the two countries where the UN can reach civilians without going through Syrian government-controlled areas, the Bab Al-Hawa crossing.

OPINION: Turkiye-Syria earthquake: ‘It’s as though someone dropped a nuclear bomb’

But the earthquake badly damaged the road so trucks and heavy equipment, such as construction equipment, are no longer able to use it, which has seriously hampered efforts by the UN to deliver aid.

Other crossings, through which aid once flowed into northern Syria, were shut after Russia used its veto at the UN Security Council to force their closure in 2020.

Health infrastructure has been badly damaged since the Syrian regime and its allies deliberately targeted hospitals and healthcare workers throughout the war.

Before the earthquake, Syrians in northwest Syria with severe health conditions would cross through Bab Al-Hawa and be treated in Turkish state hospitals, but these are now overwhelmed with earthquake victims and there is no route to get there anyway.

On Monday, Syria’s envoy to the United Nations, Bassam Sabbagh, said that if anyone wanted to send aid to Syria they had to coordinate with the government.

But because of the ongoing fighting, Western governments have withdrawn their ambassadors from Damascus and imposed sanctions on the regime.

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has called on the international community to mobilise resources and support the rescue and rehabilitation efforts in northern Syria.

“The Syrian government must allow aid to reach all areas affected by the earthquake without restriction,” said Amnesty.