UNHCR: Over 5 million may be left displaced in Syria by the quake
Shafaq News/ As many as 5.3 million people in Syria may have been left homeless by the earthquake that struck the country and Türkiye at the start of the week. Sivanka Dhanapala, UNHCR Representative in Syria, said in a press briefing.
Dhanapala explained that the UN Refugee Agency has been rushing aid to the badly impacted parts of Syria and is focusing on shelter and relief items, ensuring that collective centers the displaced have gone to have adequate facilities, as well as tents, plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, sleeping mats, winter clothing and so on.
"We have been distributing them since day one – last night we gave out 9440 kits – focusing, of course, on all those impacted by the earthquake, but also trying to understand who among the affected are the most vulnerable: the elderly, those with disabilities, children. And, of course, some children have been separated from their parents." She added.
"We are also leading in the protection sector here. Throughout Syria, we have a network of community centers, satellite centers, and outreach volunteers, and this helps us reach vulnerable populations. In addition, we've set up hotlines for all sorts of protection-related issues, which we use."
The UN representative considered the situation in Syria "a crisis within a crisis." Due to the economic shocks, COVID, and cold weather.
"There are 6.8 million people already internally displaced in the country. And this was before the earthquake."
She pointed out that the UN Agency now needs "life-saving activity," such as tents and non-food items. "Then we will look – over the next 8 to 12 weeks – at supporting livelihoods and basic services in affected areas, shelter support provision, and installing emergency shelter kits and minor repairs to damaged housing."
She hoped that an agreement with the Syrian Government would allow for fast and regular access to the areas in the northwest of Syria, "which is especially badly hit and the damage has badly impeded access."
We have just had a preliminary estimate that 5.37 million people affected by the quake will need shelter assistance in Syria.
Next week, Dhanapala will head to Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia, where "we have the pre-positioned stocks of 30,000 core relief items and 20,000 tents."
"To echo the words of the UN Secretary-General, speaking last night: This is about people. That is all that matters." She concluded.