The challenge of getting humanitarian aid to those affected by the earthquakes in Syria

Search and rescue work after the collapse of a building in the Syrian city of Aleppo due to the earthquakes in Turkey

Search and rescue work after the collapse of a building in the Syrian city of Aleppo due to the earthquakes in Turkey – Stringer / Xinhua News / ContactPhoto

Latest Turkey and Syria earthquake news

The West is reluctant to channel aid through Damascus and in the northwest there is only one passage from Turkey


The wave of earthquakes that shook southern Turkey this Monday has also caused a trail of destruction and death in the north of neighboring Syria, where, however, humanitarian aid and vital rescue teams were sent in the hours after the tremors is quite a challenge.

On the one hand, Bashar al Assad’s regime has managed to regain control of a large part of the country almost twelve years after the president repressed with blood and fire the protests demanding more democracy during the ‘Arab Spring’.

However, Western countries have been refusing all this time to channel humanitarian assistance through the Syrian government, as Damascus claims, deriving any aid to the most vulnerable population through UN agencies or NGOs that are present. in the ground.

On the other hand, the northwest, essentially the province of Idlib and some areas of Aleppo, is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), a terrorist organization inherited from the Al Nusra Front that was once a subsidiary of Al Qaeda in Syria, and which in In recent years, it has made an effort to present itself as an alternative government in this part of the country.

In the northeast, Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups control some areas while others are controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), including Syrian Kurdish forces.

Until now, sending humanitarian aid to northwest Syria, home to some four million people, half of whom are displaced by the conflict from other parts of the country, could only be done through a single passage from Turkey. , that of Bab al Hawa.

In recent years, the Syrian government has managed, thanks to the veto power of Russia, its main ally on the international scene, to gradually reduce the number of border crossings through which to send aid from Turkey in successive votes in the Security Council from the ONU.


The area in which this border crossing is located has been damaged by earthquakes. According to the UN Agency for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), local sources have indicated that cross-border operations are being temporarily disrupted by problems on the roads in the area.

Specifically, the road between Gaziantep, the Turkish town where the epicenter of the most powerful earthquake was located, and Hatay, the district hardest hit by earthquakes and where the UN has the center where aid is controlled and verified before loading it on the trucks that will transport it to Syria, it is not accessible. Given this circumstance, the UN and its partners are exploring other routes and conducting feasibility assessments.

Also, to this is added the serious inflation that the country is going through, where the Syrian pound is at minimum levels, and which is causing problems in the fuel supply.

The spokesman for the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Tommasso della Longa, acknowledged this Tuesday that the lack of machinery to remove the rubble to which hundreds of buildings have been reduced was added to the lack made out of fuel. “This is hindering the work of heavy machinery, personnel transport and ambulance emergency services,” he warned.

Thus, there have been many voices that have raised the alarm about the situation in northern Syria, particularly in the areas that are outside the control of Damascus. “In northwestern Syria, where four million people receive humanitarian aid, there was already an emergency situation,” UNICEF spokesman James Elder warned. “Communities there are facing the cholera outbreak, a brutal winter and, of course, the ongoing conflict,” he stressed.

“The international community must immediately mobilize resources to support the rescue and rehabilitation efforts in northern Syria,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East, Aya Majzoub. “The Syrian government must also allow aid to reach all the areas affected by the earthquake without restriction,” he defended.


In turn, the OCHA spokesman, Jens Laerke, has sent a clear message: “It is imperative that the whole world see this for what it is, a humanitarian crisis in which lives are at stake.” For this reason, he has pleaded that the issue “not be politicized” but that “help reach people who desperately need it.”

In this context, the European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, revealed on Wednesday that the Syrian authorities have formally requested emergency aid from the EU through the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

“We have shared this request with the member states and ask that they contribute with the required assistance,” said the Slovenian commissioner, who has detailed that the aid consists of assistance to improve the rescue and search tasks of trapped people, in addition to medical material and food. It remains to be seen now if the member states agree to provide such assistance.

In turn, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has stressed that the United States will send aid to Syria through the NGOs that work in the country but not through the Al Assad regime. “Those funds will of course go to the Syrian people, not the regime,” he asserted.

By contrast, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad denounced on Tuesday that the sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western countries are preventing the arrival of aid and stressed that these measures “have exacerbated the disaster.” Thus, he ruled out the claims from Washington that the sanctions do not affect humanitarian aid.

For this reason, Mikdad called on the member states of the United Nations, the international organization and non-governmental organizations to “lend a hand and support the Syrian efforts to deal with this humanitarian disaster.” “Many brother and friendly countries – among them Iran, Iraq or the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – have responded to the call and planes with humanitarian aid have arrived at the airports of Damascus, Aleppo and Latakia,” he stressed.

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Written by Editor TLN

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