UNHCR: Deterioration of conditions of Feb. 6 earthquake’s Syrian victims

The UN flag, inverted atop the rubble of a destroyed building in the town of Jindires in the northern countryside of Aleppo, manifests disapproval of the delayed response following an earthquake that struck regions in Turkey and four Syrian provinces – February 11, 2023 (Walid Aktaa)

The UN flag, inverted atop the rubble of a destroyed building in the town of Jindires in the northern countryside of Aleppo, manifests disapproval of the delayed response following an earthquake that struck regions in Turkey and four Syrian provinces – February 11, 2023 (Walid Aktaa)

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned of deteriorating conditions for millions of refugees and their hosts, one year after the earthquakes on February 6, 2023.

The UNHCR spokeswoman, Shabia Mantoo, said at a press conference held today at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, on the first anniversary of the earthquake that struck four Syrian governorates and ten Turkish states, that thousands of Syrians are still without shelter in Turkey, which is one of the largest host countries for refugees in the world, post-earthquake.

In Syria, approximately 90% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 12.9 million people suffer from food insecurity, with 7.2 million internally displaced persons, according to Mantoo.

The spokeswoman explained that amidst multiple crises, 16.7 million people are in need of assistance, an increase from 15.3 million in the previous year.

The earthquake impacted 8.8 million individuals across Syria, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands. In northwestern Syria alone, over 40,000 people remain displaced due to the earthquake, residing in 70 temporary reception centers.

The UNHCR reaffirmed its commitment to providing protection services, as well as psychological and social support to over 311,000 individuals affected by the earthquakes.

The UN calls for increased funding

Regarding the United Nations response in the shelter sector, the Deputy Spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Jens Laerke, told Enab Baladi that the United Nations took urgent action to respond and mobilize resources after the massive earthquakes.

The United Nations promptly launched an emergency appeal valued at 398 million US dollars to assist 4.9 million people in Syria affected by the earthquakes, which was fully funded by donors, as well as participation by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, according to Laerke.

These funds enabled the provision of food, shelter, first aid, and psychological and social support to needy Syrians and assisted in the critical task of debris removal, Laerke mentioned.

Furthermore, the annual Syrian humanitarian response plan for 2023, which was already in place, was revised to 5.4 billion dollars to accommodate the increasing humanitarian needs following the earthquake, and this plan received over 2 billion dollars.

Laerke clarified that both appeals reflect the urgent need to provide additional shelter and housing for Syrians after the earthquakes and that more than half a million individuals in Syria received shelter support in 2023.

Even before the disaster, the United Nations had a plan to provide more temporary shelter units to those in need. Since March 2022, the UN has assisted over 31,000 families including those affected by the earthquakes.

However, there is still an urgent need for additional shelter support, and this will require increased funding for humanitarian response in Syria, according to Laerke.

 

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