06 March 2023

Survivors in need of shelter and sanitation a month after massive earthquake

06 March 2023

Hundreds of thousands of people still need adequate shelter and sanitation a month after a huge earthquake devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, a United Nations official said.

An appeal for a billion US dollars (£832 million) is only 10% funded, hampering efforts to tackle the humanitarian crisis, they added.

The February 6 earthquake and strong aftershocks killed more than 46,000 people in Turkey, destroyed or damaged about 230,000 buildings and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless – making it the worst disaster in Turkey’s modern history.

The earthquake killed around 6,000 people in Syria, mainly in the rebel-held northwest, the UN estimates.

About two million survivors have been housed in temporary accommodation or evacuated from the earthquake-devastated region, according to Turkish government figures.

Around 1.5 million people have been settled in tents while another 46,000 have been moved to container houses. Others are living in dormitories and guesthouses, the government said.

“Given the number of people that have been relocated, given the number of people that have been injured and given the level of the devastation, we do have extensive humanitarian needs now,” said Alvaro Rodriguez, the UN resident co-ordinator in Turkey.

“We have some provinces where up to 25% of the population — we’re talking sometimes half a million people — have relocated. So the challenge we have is how do we provide food, shelter, water for these communities?” he said.

The UN representative said tents are still needed even though they are not “the optimal solution” for sheltering people. He reported some cases of scabies outbreaks because of poor sanitary conditions.

Last month, the UN made a flash appeal for 397.6 million US dollars (£330.8 million) to help Syrian victims — just over half of which has come in — and a billion dollar appeal for victims in Turkey to cover emergency needs, such as food, protection, education water and shelter, for three months.

Mr Rodriguez said the appeal for Turkey is only about a tenth funded.

“The reality is that if we do not move beyond the roughly 10% that we have, the UN and its partners will not be able to meet the humanitarian needs,” he said.

Mr Rodriguez added: “Turkey has been a country that has supported four million Syrian refugees over the last few years, and this is an opportunity for the international community to provide the support that Turkey deserves.”

The World Bank has estimated that the earthquake has caused an estimated 34.2 billion dollars (£28.45 billion) in direct physical damages — the equivalent of 4% of Turkey’s 2021 GDP.

It said recovery and reconstruction costs will be much higher and GDP losses associated with economic disruptions will also add to the cost of the earthquakes.

In Syria, the situation remains dire a month after the deadly earthquake, with aid groups citing fears of a looming public health crisis, families still packed into overcrowded temporary shelters and crucial infrastructure damaged by the quake.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Aleppo’s water infrastructure — already ageing and damaged by the war — was further damaged by the quake, which “reduced the system’s efficiency and raised the risk that contaminated water could pollute the supply”.

Water contamination is of particular concern in Syria as the country was already battling cholera outbreaks before the earthquake.

While the earthquake generated an initial outpouring of aid, relief organisations cited fears that the world’s attention will move on quickly while basic humanitarian needs remain unmet.

Meanwhile, political and logistical issues have in some cases blocked aid from reaching those in need.

Amnesty International said on Monday that between February 9 and 22, the Syrian government “blocked at least 100 trucks carrying essential aid such as food, medical supplies and tents from entering Kurdish-majority neighbourhoods in Aleppo city”, while Turkish-backed rebel groups in northwest Syria blocked at least 30 aid trucks sent by rival Kurdish groups from entering Turkish-controlled Afrin in the same period.

“Even in this moment of desperation, the Syrian government and armed opposition groups have pandered to political considerations and taken advantage of people’s misery to advance their own agendas,” Aya Majzoub, the rights group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.

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