UN inquiry says world failed Syria earthquake victims

It highlights the slow response to the crisis, as well as the world body's own failings

Ali Hussein Mohammed, who lost his home following the earthquake, stands next to his lorry at a camp for the internally displaced. Reuters
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A UN-backed commission has said the international community and the UN itself acted slowly in delivering humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in northern Syria.

The UN Commission of Inquiry on Monday highlighted the slow response of NGOs and foreign governments, as well as the world body's own failings.

More than 45,000 people were killed in Turkey and about 6,000 in Syria after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit southern Turkey last month.

Roads between the two countries were cracked and many were impassable.

Survivors at the Bab Al Hawa border crossing posted images on social media of families passing through the area by car, and an absence of aid deliveries.

The UN commission highlighted how Damascus waited a week before allowing further border crossings to open, delaying vital aid and recovery efforts.

The independent three-member commission also said Syria had conducted air and artillery attacks in northern Syria after the disaster, and said armed rebel groups had also obstructed aid.

"Syrians felt abandoned and neglected by those supposed to protect them, in the most desperate of times," the commission said.

Bab Al Hawa was agreed on as the only border crossing that could be used to send aid to rebel-held northern Syria, after Russia vetoed the opening of more crossing points, before eventually opening four border entry points.

Moscow said deliveries of aid to rebel-held areas across the border — including Idlib, which is controlled by militants formerly linked to Al Qaeda — would breach Syria’s sovereignty.

The commission’s Hanny Megally said aid organisations should have moved more quickly, regardless of Syria’s sovereignty considerations.

The UN estimates that five million people need basic shelter and non-food assistance in the quake-hit parts of Syria.

Commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro said Syria became an "epicentre of neglect" and the panel was probing numerous allegations of warring factions "deliberately obstructing humanitarian aid".

He criticised the "wholesale failure by the government and the international community, including the UN, to rapidly direct life-saving support to Syrians in the most dire need".

Updated: March 14, 2023, 5:49 AM