Thursday, February 09, 2023

Syria Side-Lined for Earthquake Aid

 Rescue teams and volunteers from around the world have made their way to Turkey, medical volunteer Obaida Rannoush called out the inaction of the global community when it comes to his country, Syria. In northwest Syria, the sluggish international response is a matter of life or death for hundreds still trapped under the concrete of collapsed buildings.

“I call on the international community, the Arab countries, and the United Nations to urgently help us,” he said, standing by the Bab al-Hawa border crossing. “More than 60 hours after the quake took place, there are still hundreds trapped under the debris. We cannot rescue them because of our meagre resources. We need heavy machinery, humanitarian and medical aid." He went on to say, not a single humanitarian convoy has crossed the border. “We have not received any kind of assistance,” Rannoush said. “We are standing here by the border crossing to ask for humanitarian aid so we can save some of the people under the rubble.”

The lack of response has prompted dozens of Syrian journalists to stage a sit-in at the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

Mazen Alloush, head of media relations for the Bab al-Hawa border, said millions of Syrians have been affected by the earthquake and its aftershocks. “The crossing has been closed since the earthquake took place,” he said. “We know that the UN aid is stored in the Turkish city of Reyhanli, which is just one kilometre away from the border crossing,” he added.

“No aid has entered [north Syria] through any of the corridors,” Abdul Razzak Kentar, programmes manager at the Syria Civil Defence.

Is it politics first, aid second? 

Medico International's Anita Starosta explained, "The aid that was being delivered before the earthquake was not sufficient and sometimes it never even arrived. Now it's winter and very cold. That means that now, more than ever, people in the displaced persons' camps here, and also in the areas in Idlib that have been destroyed, are dependent on international help."All this will depend on one thing, Starosta added. "Whether Turkey opens a humanitarian corridor, to bring people who are fleeing the area to safety, or whether the country sticks with its political position and keeps the borders closed," she said. "Unfortunately we expect the latter to happen."

All those Syrians in the country affected by the earthquake simply have to wait — for help to arrive or political decisions to be made, even as time is running out to find survivors.

The U.S. made it clear that it was only willing to support some work carried out in Syria by NGOs, but that it would have no dealings with the al-Assad government.

The head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, Khaled Hboubati, has requested that Western countries, specifically the U.S. and its allies, lift their siege and sanctions on Syria so that rescue and relief work can proceed unimpeded.

“We need heavy equipment, ambulances and fire fighting vehicles to continue to rescue and remove the rubble, and this entails lifting sanctions on Syria as soon as possible,” Hboubati said.

Syrians denounce failed aid response after devastating quake | Earthquakes News | Al Jazeera

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