UNITED NATIONS, Feb 09 (APP):Fresh snowfall in Syria on Wednesday compounded the already desperate situation faced by millions of people in the five governorates whose lives had been shattered by the earthquake disaster, the UN’s top humanitarian official in the country said.
The death toll in Turkey and Syria has surpassed 11,000 in the world’s deadliest earthquake disaster in more than a decade, and the number of victims is climbing quickly two days after earthquakes leveled cities and towns in both countries.
“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 (the snow),” El-Mostafa Benlamlih, UN Resident Coordinator for Syria, said in a statement.
“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.”
Benlamlih warned that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance – currently 15.3 million – would have to be revised upwards.
Speaking from Damascus via video link, Benlamlih told reporters 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 were 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”.
Confirming that roads had 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.
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 had 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.
The World Food Programme WFP, tweeted that trucks in Türkiye had departed from its warehouses carrying food for around 17,000 people impacted who were now seeking shelter in Osmaniye Cevdetiye camp.