UNHCR Urges More Support for Earthquake Survivors in Turkey, Syria

The U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said more needs to be done to support survivors in Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of last month’s devastating earthquake as the death toll from the tragedy continues to climb.

Grandi, who concluded a five-day visit to earthquake-devastated areas, said in a statement Monday, “The needs on the ground in both countries are enormous and the response must be better resourced.”

He said the focus needs to be not just on long-term rebuilding projects, but on immediate assistance.

“While it is critical to think about and support longer term efforts, much more humanitarian aid and early recovery resources are needed so that people can begin to rebuild their lives and livelihoods,” he said.

“The level of destruction and devastation is shocking and in many places, it is apocalyptic,” Grandi added.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Monday that the death toll in Turkey had risen to 48,448.

Speaking at a news conference in the hard-hit province of Malatya, Soylu said the toll in Turkey included 6,660 foreign nationals, mostly Syrians. He also said authorities were still trying to identify 1,615 victims.

In neighboring Syria, the quake killed more than 6,000 people.

A U.N. commission Monday blamed both Syria’s government and the international community for not acting fast enough to help people in need in Syria’s rebel-held northwest.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said there should be an investigation into why it took a week following the earthquake for Syria’s government and the United Nations to agree on opening more border crossings for aid to flow to rebel-held areas.

Commission member Paulo Pinheiro told a news conference in Geneva that there was a “complete failure by the government and the international community including United Nations to rapidly direct urgent lifesaving aid for northwest Syria.”

“Many days were lost without any aid to survivors of the earthquake,” he said.

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

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