Last Updated: February 10, 2023, 23:58 IST
Rescue workers and volunteers conduct search and rescue operations in the rubble of a collasped building, in Diyarbakir on February 6, 2023, (Image: AFP)
As the WHO prepared to fly medical supplies to Syria from Dubai, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said a huge backlog of aid was waiting to reach Syria’s rebel-held northwest
A senior World Health Organization official bemoaned Syria’s “forgotten crisis” on Friday, as aid began trickling into rebel-held areas, days after a devastating earthquake.
As the WHO prepared to fly medical supplies to Syria from Dubai, Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said a huge backlog of aid was waiting to reach Syria’s rebel-held northwest.
The single aid corridor bypassing government-controlled areas and servicing the war-shattered region, which is home to four million people, was temporarily cut off by Monday’s massive quake.
The first convoy of emergency supplies finally passed through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing from Turkey on Thursday. More than 22,000 people have died in the disaster in both countries.
“The world’s forgotten about Syria,” Ryan told reporters in Dubai, during preparations for the aid flight.
“Frankly, the earthquake’s brought attention back. But those millions of people in Syria have been struggling now for years. That’s become a forgotten crisis.”
UN chief Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council on Thursday to authorise the opening of additional crossings on the Turkey-Syria border for the delivery of UN aid to rebel areas.
This week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of a “race against time” to save lives in the quake zone as aftershocks continue and freezing winter conditions bite.
Even before the earthquake, a decade of civil war and Syrian-Russian aerial bombardment had destroyed hospitals and prompted electricity, fuel and water shortages in the rebel-held northwest.
“There’s a huge backlog of supplies ready to go,” Ryan said. “Many agencies, including our own had pre-stocked because we’re into the winter, they’re already very exposed.
“There’s a huge problem with millions of people.”
The chances of finding survivors had dimmed before the first aid arrived, after the end of the three-day period that experts consider critical to save lives.
Syria is now facing a “secondary disaster” of lives lost due to a lack of medical supplies, Ryan warned.
“We have to recognise the scale of this disaster is so large, it’s overwhelming everyone’s capacity,” he said.
“If they don’t have equipment, they can’t do their job — it’s like asking a fireman to rush to a fire without a fire hose.”
Officials and medics said 18,991 people had died in Turkey and 3,377 in Syria in Monday’s quake, bringing the confirmed total to 22,368. Experts fear the number will continue to rise.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)