MEDIA ADVISORY / August 4, 2023

Six months on earthquake survivors in northern Syria struggle to recover amid inadequate UN response

Millions of people in northern Syria are still struggling to recover from the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Türkiye nearly six months ago on 6 February 2023, killing  thousands of civilians and destroying homes, schools and hospitals.

“The UN and donor community not only missed the critical 72 hour window to save lives in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, but now have failed to adequately step up the humanitarian response to help communities survive the consequences of this catastrophe. The UN is using the same fragile emergency response mechanisms that existed before the earthquake – this is insufficient to help impacted communities to recover from the added devastation of the earthquake and years of war,” said Dr Mohamad Katoub, Project Manager at Impact.

“The UN has sent 3,722 aid trucks to northwest Syria since the earthquake in February, but if we look at the number of aid trucks sent in all of 2022 which is 7,566, it’s clear that the UN’s response before and after the earthquake is still the same”.

Laila Kiki, Executive Director of The Syria Campaign said: “It is outrageous that six months after the catastrophic earthquake the world continues to turn its back on civilians facing a grave humanitarian crisis in northern Syria. UN aid delays during the first critical hours cost lives, there must be accountability for the ongoing failure to provide sufficient support to the Syrian people during the most desperate of times.

“The dire situation has been compounded by Russia’s veto of cross-border aid last month. Cutting this  vital lifeline for millions in the northwest of the country has enabled the Assad’s regime – which has a dangerous history of using humanitarian aid as a weapon of war – to take control of vital cross-border aid access.”

The White Helmets were the only team carrying out search and rescue operations in northern Syria in the aftermath of the earthquake. Since then White Helmets volunteers have continued to work tirelessly to clear rubble and carry out vital rehabilitation to damaged buildings and infrastructure. 

Raed al-Saleh, Head of the White Helmets, said:  “The earthquake in northwestern Syria was a devastating disaster that inflicted lasting scars on the people. It worsened the already dire humanitarian situation and hindered our societies’ ability to recover and rebuild after 12 years of war. As time passes, it is crucial not to forget the tragedy faced by the population. Continuing the recovery process is vital to help residents regain their lives and communities with dignity and stability. The damage to critical infrastructure has severely restricted access to essential services like water, healthcare, education, and job opportunities. To support our communities in efforts to stand on our feet again, we must invest in rebuilding basic infrastructure and livelihoods. This is the initial step in the recovery process, yet there remains significant work to be done.

“Now, with Russia’s veto, countless lives are put at risk, as the entry of crucial humanitarian aid comes to a complete halt during this critical moment when people are barely starting to recover from the devastating earthquake’s effects. This veto by Russia sets a dangerous precedent, creating opportunities for the politicization of humanitarian aid delivery by both Russia and the Assad regime. This cannot continue. What kind of world are we living in when those responsible for crimes against humanity are allowed to determine the fate of millions of vulnerable people in the aftermath of one of the deadliest earthquakes in recent years?”

Spokespeople including first responders and humanitarian workers on the ground are available for interview