The first time a UN aid convoy has reached Syria since devastating earthquakes cut off supply lines from Türkiye three days ago was on Thursday, February 9. Geir Pedersen, the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, also demanded assurances that aid to Syria would not be delayed or “politicized.”
“Aid, life-saving aid, is desperately needed by civilians wherever they are irrespective of borders and boundaries. We need it urgently, through the fastest, most direct, and most effective routes. They need more of absolutely everything.” he told journalists in Geneva.
Six trucks from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) carrying “shelter items and non-food item kits, including blankets and hygiene kits” reached Bab al-Hawa on Thursday, the only UN Security Council border crossing authorized for aid delivery, according to OCHA, the aid coordination office of the United Nations.
He urged not to politicize the response and to concentrate on those who could still be saved.
The appeal made by the Special Envoy came in response to a warning from UN humanitarian workers that the country’s estimated 15.3 million people in need of assistance before the earthquake will have to be increased.
After presiding over a meeting of the Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, which facilitates aid delivery to the war-ravaged nation, Mr. Pedersen continued,
“We need to do everything to make sure that there are no impediments whatsoever to delay lifesaving support that is needed in Syria”
He went on to say, “I was struck by the unity of the meeting we had today by all the different Member States that participated.”
The Special Envoy responded that he had discussed this issue “in particular with the representatives from the United States and from the European Union and they assured him that they will do whatever they can to ensure that there are no impediments to assistance coming to Syria to help in this operation, when asked if it was now time to lift some sanctions on Syria to ensure that those in need can receive aid.
Rescue workers have been rescuing more people from the rubble in areas affected by the double earthquake, but the chances of finding trapped survivors are rapidly decreasing.
Humanitarians explained that the first 72 hours would always be important after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake close to Gaziantep, Turkey, early on Monday morning, followed by another 7.5-magnitude earthquake several hours later.
More than 17, 000 confirmed deaths have occurred in Syria and Turkey together. The UN Syria Envoy requested access to resources and resources across borders as more victims were anticipated.
The envoy claims that:
“The number of casualties continues to rise as we are speaking in both countries and there are still too many people who are under the rubble in the freezing cold. The earthquake struck as the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria was already worsening, with needs at their highest level since the conflict began.”
The devastating civil war in Syria has lasted almost 12 years, but the country is still struggling financially and has one of the largest displacement crises in the world. The United Nations estimated, based on assessments conducted prior to the earthquake, that cross-border aid alone supported over four million people in northwest Syria.
The Syrian government, opposition forces, and other armed groups control portions of Syria. The earthquake has been particularly destructive in opposition and government areas.
Humanitarian organizations have reported a pressing need for temporary shelters, skilled rescue teams, and logistical support in every affected region of Syria. Numerous nations have already offered their support, and the United Nations is assisting in the mobilization of emergency teams and relief operations.
Stéphane Dujarric, UN spokesperson, informed reporters in New York that more than 100 Urban Search and Rescue Teams are currently working in affected areas of Türkiye. He said that the government had asked for the UN Disaster and Assessment Coordination (UNDAC) Teams to be sent to Gaziantep and four hubs in the disaster area with 50 members each.
According to Mr. Dujarric, a different UNDAC team has been sent to the Turkish capital of Ankara and is on its way to Syria to support the response there. It will be arriving via Lebanon.