The Earthquake Hitting Turkey, Syria, and Adjacent Areas
Since a 7.7 magnitude earthquake shook southern Turkey on February 6, the UN and partners are organizing the first cross-border assistance convoy to north-western Syria. As a result of the road’s impairment, the cross-border operation was momentarily halted between Gaziantep and the UN Transshipment Hub in Hatay. Following feasibility analyses, as of February 8th, two additional routes from Mersin and Kilis-Kirikhan to Gaziantep have been identified to access the Hub. Since 2014, UN cross-border aid has provided a lifeline to millions of people in northwest Syria.
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The Impairment of the Roads, and Halt of Humanitarian Aid
There is just one border crossing left that has been approved by the Security Council for UN assistance delivery, and that is the Bab Al-Hawa at the Turkey-Syria border. Each month in 2022, 600 trucks carrying relief crossed the Turkish border, reaching an average of 2.6 million Syrians. In a press conference held today, Muhannad Hadi, the regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria Crisis, said, “We have a glimpse of optimism that we can connect customers. We’re looking forward to being able to transport an item across the border tomorrow, he continued. On the third day, the emergency reaction to the earthquake is still in progress.
More than 11,000 people have died in Turkey and north-western Syria as of 8 February, a 450 percent increase from the number that was published in the first OCHA Flash Update. The casualty numbers are rising hourly.
The Aftershocks, and the Quick Response
There have been at least 648 aftershocks recorded. Teams of emergency responders are being sent to Turkey from all over the world. As of the morning of February 8th, 79,110 people were working as search and rescue personnel in the area, according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). On February 8, a UNDAC (United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination) rescue squad headed to Gaziantep touched down in Adana. More deployments to Karhamanmaraş and perhaps Adiyaman are in the works. Only 5% of reported sites are being covered by search and rescue operations in northwest Syria, where the situation is very dire.
The Difficulties Faced By the Aid Providers
These attempts have been greatly hampered by the lack of large machinery to remove debris and the winter weather. Hospitals are experiencing fuel shortages due to significant power outages. According to local authorities, there may be 11,000 families who are currently without a house. 2,000 fatalities and more than 5,000 injuries have been recorded.
Following the announcement of a $25 million award by the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) on February 7, Mr. Hadi made a plea “to all donor partners to offer the support essential to alleviate misery” in a joint declaration that was made public. With $138 million granted in 2022, the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund (SCHF) is already at capacity and needs more donations to sustain 2023 activities with an emphasis on the earthquake response.