The UN denounced Sunday a failure to get desperately needed aid to war-torn regions of Syria, while warning that the death toll of nearly 30,000 from an earthquake that also devastated Turkey could at least double.
A UN convoy with supplies for northwest Syria arrived via Turkey, but the agency’s relief chief Martin Griffiths said much more was needed for millions whose homes were destroyed.
“We have so far failed the people in northwest Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived,” Griffiths said on Twitter.
“My duty and our obligation is to correct this failure as fast as we can.”
Aid has been slow to arrive in Syria, where years of conflict have ravaged the healthcare system, and parts of the country remain under the control of rebels battling the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which is under Western sanctions.
The UN convoy of ten trucks crossed into northwest Syria via the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, according to an AFP correspondent, carrying shelter kits including plastic sheeting, ropes and screws and nails, as well as blankets, mattresses and carpets.
Tens of thousands of rescue workers continued to scour flattened neighbourhoods in freezing weather that has deepened the misery of millions now in desperate need of aid.
But security concerns prompted the suspension of some operations, and dozens of people have been arrested for looting or trying to defraud victims in the aftermath of the quake in Turkey, according to state media.
– 26 million people affected –
Miraculous tales of survival still emerged, though experts caution that hopes for finding people alive in the devastation dim with each passing day.
A seven-month-old baby named Hamza was rescued in southern Hatay province more than 140 hours after the quake, while Esma Sultan, 13, was also saved in Gaziantep, state media reported.
At the Vatican, Pope Francis called for “concrete support” for the quake victims, urging people to “think what we can do to help them.”
The United Nations has warned that at least 870,000 people urgently need hot meals across Turkey and Syria. In Syria alone, up to 5.3 million people may have been made homeless.
Almost 26 million people have been affected by the earthquake, the World Health Organization (WHO) said as it appealed Saturday for $42.8 million to cope with immediate health needs after dozens of hospitals were damaged.