UN launches $397m appeal for Syria earthquake survivors

Antonio Guterres says similar push for Turkey is in 'final stages'

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The UN launched a $397 million appeal on Tuesday to help earthquake survivors in Syria, where a devastating earthquake has killed thousands of people and left millions in desperate need of aid.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world body was in the “final stages” of setting up a similar appeal for Turkey.

“This will cover a period of three months and will help secure desperately needed, life-saving relief to nearly five million Syrians,” he said.

More than 35,000 people are so far known to have been killed in the 7.8-magnitude quake, which devastated huge parts of Syria and neighbouring Turkey on February 6. At least 3,600 perished in Syria, according to government officials and emergency services in rebel-held areas.

“Aid must get through from all sides, to all sides, through all routes — without any restrictions. As we speak, an 11-truck convoy is on the move to cross through Bab Al Salam with many more to come,” Mr Guterres said.

The UN said Tuesday 84 trucks travelled in total crossed through Bab Al Hawa since the earthquake.

The announcement follows Monday's agreement between the UN and Mr Al Assad to allow UN aid deliveries to opposition-held north-west Syria through two border crossings from Turkey for three months.

“The two crossings are open. Movements are taking place,” Mr Guterres said.

He urged UN member states and others to fully fund this effort without delay and help the millions of children, women and men whose lives have been wrecked by the disaster.

“This is a moment for unity, for common humanity and concerted action,” the UN chief said.

“In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, the United Nations rapidly provided $50 million through the Central Emergency Response Fund. But the needs are immense.

“One week after the devastating earthquakes, millions of people across the region are struggling for survival, homeless and in freezing temperatures.”

Mr Guterres said the Syria effort brings together the entire UN system and humanitarian partners and will help secure desperately needed, life-saving relief for nearly five million Syrians, including shelter, health care, food and protection.

“The most effective way to stand with the people is by providing this emergency funding. We all know that life-saving aid has not been getting in at the speed and scale needed. The scale of this disaster is one the worst in recent memory.”

Aid has been slow to reach Syria, where nearly 12 years of conflict have ravaged the healthcare system and parts of the country remain under the control of rebels battling against President Bashar Al Assad's government.

The UN, in particular, has faced criticism for the slow pace at which aid has gone into Syria. Mr Guterres acknowledged deliveries have not been happening “at the speed and scale needed”.

“We are doing all we can to change this,” he said.

Updated: February 14, 2023, 6:36 PM