Marin Independent Journal

Earthquake survivors remain in need of shelter, sanitation

- By Suzan Fraser

ANKARA, TURKEY >> One month after a powerful quake devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, hundreds of thousands of people still need adequate shelter and sanitation, and an appeal for $1 billion to assist survivors is only 10% funded, hampering efforts to tackle the humanitari­an crisis, a United Nations official said Monday.

The Feb. 6 earthquake and strong aftershock­s have killed close to 47,000 people in Turkey, destroyed or damaged around 214,000 buildings and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless — making it the worst disaster in Turkey's modern history. The U.N. estimates that the earthquake killed around 6,000 people in Syria, mainly in the rebel-held northwest.

About 2 million survivors have been housed in temporary accommodat­ion or evacuated from the earthquake-devastated region, according to Turkish government figures. Around 1.5 million people have been settled in tents while another 46,000 have been moved to container houses. Others are living in dormitorie­s and guesthouse­s, the government said.

“Given the number of people that have been relocated, given the number of people that have been injured and given the level of the devastatio­n, we do have extensive humanitari­an needs now,” Alvaro Rodriguez, the U.N. Resident Coordinato­r in Turkey, told The Associated Press.

“We have some provinces where up to 25% of the population — we're talking sometimes half a million people — have relocated. So the challenge we have is how do we provide food, shelter, water for these communitie­s?” he said.

The U.N. representa­tive said tents are still needed even though they are not “the optimal solution” for sheltering people. He reported some cases of scabies outbreaks because of poor sanitary conditions.

Last month, the U.N. made a flash appeal for $397.6 million to help Syrian quake victims and $1 billion appeal for victims in Turkey to cover emergency needs, such as food, protection, education water and shelter, for three months. Rodriguez said the appeal for Turkey is only about 10 percent funded.

“The reality is that if we do not move beyond the roughly 10% that we have, the U.N. and its partners will not be able to meet the humanitari­an needs,” he said.

Rodriguez added: “Turkey has been a country that has supported 4 million Syrian refugees over the last few years, and this is an opportunit­y for the internatio­nal community to provide the support that Turkey deserves.”

The World Bank has estimated that the earthquake has caused an estimated $34.2 billion in direct physical damages — the equivalent of 4% of Turkey's 2021 GDP. The World Bank said recovery and reconstruc­tion costs will be much higher and that GDP losses associated to economic disruption­s will also add to the cost of the earthquake­s.

In Syria, the situation remained dire one month after the deadly earthquake, with aid groups citing fears of a looming public health crisis with families still packed into overcrowde­d temporary shelters and crucial infrastruc­ture damaged by the quake.

The Internatio­nal Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that Aleppo's water infrastruc­ture — already aging and damaged by the war — had been further damaged by the quake, which “reduced the system's efficiency and raised the risk that contaminat­ed water could pollute the supply.”

Water contaminat­ion is of particular concern in Syria as the country had already been battling cholera outbreaks before the earthquake.

While the earthquake generated an initial outpouring of aid, relief organizati­ons cited fears that the world's attention will move on quickly, while basic humanitari­an needs remain unmet. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the United Nations appealed for about $397 million to meet the immediate needs in Syria, including medical care for quake survivors and food and shelter for the displaced. To date, just over half of the requested amount has come in.

Meanwhile, political and logistical issues have in some cases blocked aid from reaching those in need.

Amnesty Internatio­nal said Monday that between Feb. 9 and 22, the Syrian government had “blocked at least 100 trucks carrying essential aid such as food, medical supplies and tents from entering Kurdish-majority neighborho­ods in Aleppo city” while Turkish-backed rebel groups in northwest Syria blocked at least 30 aid trucks sent by rival Kurdish groups from entering Turkish-controlled Afrin in the same period.

“Even in this moment of desperatio­n, the Syrian government and armed opposition groups have pandered to political considerat­ions and taken advantage of people's misery to advance their own agendas,” Aya Majzoub, the rights group's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

 ?? FRANCISCO SECO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ?? A family keeps warm next to a fire as they follow a rescue team searching for their relatives among destroyed buildings in Antakya, southern Turkey, on Feb. 15.
FRANCISCO SECO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE A family keeps warm next to a fire as they follow a rescue team searching for their relatives among destroyed buildings in Antakya, southern Turkey, on Feb. 15.

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