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United Nations, Feb 15 – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the world body is launching a humanitarian appeal for $397 million for the people of earthquake-hit Syria.
“This will cover a period of three months”, Guterres told reporters, adding that “we are in the final stages” of a similar appeal for Turkey, Xinhua news agency reported.
The Syria effort brings together the entire UN system and humanitarian partners and will help secure desperately needed, life-saving relief for nearly 5 million Syrians, including shelter, healthcare, food and protection, Guterres said.
“The most effective way to stand with the people is by providing this emergency funding,” he noted.
Strong earthquakes and aftershocks hit Turkey and neighbouring Syria on February 6, with the death toll climbing to over 35,000 people as of Monday.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, the United Nations rapidly provided $50 million through the Central Emergency Response Fund.
“But the needs are immense,” Guterres said, pointing out that one week after the devastating earthquakes, millions of people across the region are struggling for survival, homeless and in freezing temperatures.
“We are doing all we can to change this. But much more is needed,” he said.
The UN chief stressed that the human suffering from this epic natural disaster should not be made even worse by manmade obstacles in access, funding and supplies.
“Aid must get through from all sides, to all sides, through all routes — without any restrictions,” he said.
“I urge member states and others to fully fund this effort without delay and help the millions of children, women and men whose lives have been upended by this generational disaster,” said Guterres.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 8.8 million people in Syria were affected by last week’s devastating earthquakes.
The damage is worse in the north-west of the country, where more than 4.2 million people have been affected in Aleppo, and 3 million people have been affected in Idlib, OCHA said on Tuesday in a press release, adding that more than 7,400 buildings have been completely or partially destroyed.
“Water, electricity, heating and social services are under severe pressure. The risk of waterborne diseases is high, particularly amid an ongoing cholera outbreak,” the UN agency said. “Emergency health care is limited, and lack of fuel and heavy machinery is hampering efforts to quickly reach people most in need.”
The UN funding appeal of nearly $400 million will benefit 4.9 million people with the most urgent humanitarian needs, OCHA said.
The appeal aims to provide essential shelter, health, food, water, sanitation, non-food items, education, nutrition and protection services, as well as carrying out essential light repairs and rehabilitation to restore health, water and sanitation, agriculture and education infrastructure, and supply chains.
It also intends to support livelihoods by providing short-term employment for debris clearance and small-scale rehabilitation, provide protection services, mental health and psychosocial support, and gender-based violence case management, said OCHA.