Statement by Syrian and Non-Syrian Organizations and Groups on the Current Situation in Northwest Syria following the Türkiye-Syria Earthquakes
As more than 96 hours have passed since the initial earthquake hit both Türkiye and Syria, the hope of rescuing more lives dwindles drastically, especially since international rescue teams have not been able to access Northwest Syria despite the time sensitivity to do search and rescue operations to find any survivors under the rubble.
Local teams in Northwest Syria are literally standing alone responding to this catastrophe. Usually, humanitarian organizations and coalitions based in southern Türkiye would provide all the necessary support such as supply lines, logistics, program management, and operations. As a result of the earthquakes, the coordination efforts led by Türkiyebased bodies have been severely affected, leading to a major disruption of the humanitarian mechanisms. A tragically significant number of humanitarian workers from these supporting organizations and coalitions have lost their lives, while the ones who survived are working tirelessly in dire conditions either from shelters or inside their vehicles, hoping their voices might be heard.
A catastrophe of such magnitude requires a concerted international effort. The preliminary statistics regarding Northwest Syria, published at the time of writing, are disastrous: the death toll approaches 2,030 and is expected to increase as hours go by. Over 11,000 injured people were rescued and admitted to the overstretched hospitals. More than 2,000 residential buildings were destroyed and 5,100 buildings have been partially damaged, leaving 11,000 families homeless across the northern region in Syria.
Humanitarian workers and rescue teams in Northwest Syria are currently working hard, in extremely difficult conditions, amid severe shortages of capacities and equipment, and limited capacity of the health sector.
While we highly appreciate the deployment of international efforts and support in response to the mounting humanitarian needs in southern Türkiye, as well as the current delivery of international rescue teams and humanitarian aid to Damascus, the unaddressed extensive damage in Northwest Syria is absolutely devastating. Local rescue teams in Northwest Syria are still operating, on their own until this very moment, using their limited local capacities and resources without any immediate international rescue teams or aid convoys needed to properly respond in over 56 areas affected by the disaster. Bureaucratic and political obstacles delay the international response to the tragic situation in Northwest Syria, costing many innocent lives that could otherwise be saved.
The undersigned organizations urge the following:
To the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres, and the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Martin Griffiths:
We urge the United Nations Secretariat to address a direct mandate to all international mechanisms and agencies, to support overcoming the logistical difficulties and enable the use of all viable border crossings to reach the affected population in Northwest Syria, specifically by:
1. Directing the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) for prompt intervention across borders to Northwest Syria, and directing all available international teams to access along with their equipment to support civil defense teams in search and rescue efforts for those who are still trapped under the rubble waiting to be found and rescued;
2. Directing the United Nations Disaster Assessment Coordination Mechanism (UNDAC) to immediately intervene across the border from Türkiye to all affected sites in Northwest Syria, to coordinate the response efforts proportionally to the scale of the emergency requirements;
3. Allocating the appropriate amount of funds from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF) to the response in Northwest Syria, ensuring a maximum flexibility in light of the critical situation of the cross-border response to Northwest Syria, and allotting all the required resources to Syrian humanitarian organizations operating in Northwest Syria;
4. Directing all UN agencies and their relief programs to respond with the full necessary flexibility in light of the time-sensitive emergency situation, overcoming logistical and bureaucratic hurdles and using all the crossing points in southern Türkiye towards the Syrian lands.
To the European Union:
Including Northwest Syria as part of the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism that has been activated in Syria, especially vis-à-vis the entry of emergency supplies, equipment and rescue teams across borders to support local rescue teams in Northwestern Syria.
To the United States of America:
Using all the US logistical capabilities in the Middle East, in coordination with neighboring countries, to transfer aid to their local warehouses and provide all the needed assistance regarding logistical support to all humanitarian agencies to overcome constraints in accessing Northwest Syria.
To the Turkish authorities:
Working on repairing and reopening the damaged roads leading to the Syrian crossings, and providing all facilitations for immediate access of the international rescue teams, medical teams and all the equipment necessary to carry local search and rescue operations in Northwest Syria.
To all humanitarian funding mechanisms, donors and international partners:
Providing substantial financial injections specifically to the earthquake response, exceeding the previously allocated amounts to the programs specified within the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan for the year 2023, commensurating with the scale of the humanitarian response to the earthquake, and addressing the medium and long-term consequences of the multiple earthquakes, especially visà-vis housing rehabilitation, in order to alleviate the foreseeable exacerbation of the already raging shelter problems in Northwest Syria