Little aid is reaching Syria, UN says

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Three days after an earthquake devastated war-ravaged Syria, the United Nations said Wednesday that very little aid has trickled to government-held areas and that it has been unable to send a single convoy of aid to opposition-held territory.اضافة اعلان

Nearly 11 million people inside Syria have been affected by the earthquake, according to the UN. And 4 million of them rely on aid agencies for basic humanitarian needs like clean water and food.

“This is a big catastrophe,” El-Mostafa Benlamlih, the UN’s resident coordinator for Syria, said in a video briefing with reporters on Wednesday. “We are struggling; our humanitarian work is affected.”

The UN’s stock of humanitarian aid in Syria will run out in the next few days, Benlamlih said. The World Food Program has enough food in the country to feed 100,000 people for one week, he added.

Why has international help dragged?A host of problems contribute to the slow international response in Syria, beyond damaged roads. The UN and aid agencies have to negotiate access with the government of Bashar Al-Assad and rely on the UN Security Council’s authority for cross-border access to opposition-held areas.

Sanctions are another challenge, said Syria’s UN ambassador, Bassam Sabbagh. So far, a handful of countries have sent aid planes to Syria, he said, among them Iran, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, and Pakistan.

In Aleppo, a city of more than 1 million people, 30,000 are taking shelter in schools and mosques, and about 70,000 are on the streets, Benlamlih said.

And while waves of international search and rescue teams, armed with life-detecting dogs, are pouring into Turkey from every corner of the world, local volunteers are the only ones searching through Syria’s mounts of rubble and debris.

Syria Civil Defense — the volunteer group better known as the White Helmets — has said in videos that residents are digging for survivors and bodies of loved ones through the ruins with their bare hands.

Even the UN’s specialized natural disaster assessment team was still on its way to Syria on Wednesday, said Farhan Haq, spokesperson for the UN.
In Aleppo, a city of more than 1 million people, 30,000 are taking shelter in schools and mosques, and about 70,000 are on the streets.
The disproportionate response in Turkey and Syria has to do with “the ability of people to mobilize in one country compared to the other”, Haq said.

Dwindling resourcesThe UN already has about 700 staff members based in Syria and across the border in Turkey, and for now it has relied on stocks — food, medicine, emergency kits — in Syrian warehouses, Haq said. But it has not yet been able to replenish those goods.

While those kinds of supplies are normally needed in the aftermath of disasters, Syria is also facing a dire shortage of fuel and generators, as well as heavy machinery for rescue operations and parts to repair ambulances and trucks, the UN said.

A number of thorny and complicated questions will determine the extent and the speed of relief to Syrians who are facing a crisis that has only been magnified by the earthquake. Will Syria’s government allow humanitarian convoys to cross into opposition territory? Will the opposition accept aid from Syria’s government and its allies? And will international donors be willing to funnel millions of dollars of aid through Assad’s government and organizations affiliated with the government?

‘Politics aside’“We are hoping that everybody puts the interest of the people first, we keep the politics aside, and all authorities move away from politics and put the interest of people first,” Muhannad Hadi, UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Syria crisis, told reporters.

Other aid agencies on the ground in Syria are also scrambling to meet the spike in demand. Doctors Without Borders said its teams have provided medical items and kits to 23 local hospitals and clinics in northern Idlib province, near the epicenter, and treated over 3,400 injured people.

The organization said many hospitals in northwestern Syria had been too badly damaged to operate, and patients were stranded. Two maternity clinics operated by Doctors Without Borders were evacuated because of the risk of buildings collapsing from structural damage.

“The massive consequences of this disaster will require an equally massive international response,” Avril Benoit, the organization’s executive director in the US, said in a statement.

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