Following his visit to earthquake-stricken Hatay province in southern Turkey last week, the head of the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) said he had seen “incomprehensible” devastation and an “apocalyptic” landscape.
WFP chief David Beasley said the historically multi-ethnic and multi-religious provincial capital Antakya had become “almost a ghost town”, with homes, schools, shops and critical infrastructure damaged or destroyed.
The twin earthquake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria on 6 February, affecting 18 million in total and leaving at least 50,000 dead. Hatay was rocked by a strong tremor again last week, which led to the collapse of earlier seriously damaged buildings.
“There is only one way to describe what I saw today: apocalyptic,” Beasley said about what he witnessed in the city. “Entire neighbourhoods have been flattened; homes destroyed, schools and shops closed; lives torn apart. The scale of devastation here is truly incomprehensible,” he added.
The UN executive also visited the Boynuyoğun refugee camp and talked to Syrian families whose homes had been reduced to rubble.
The international organisation has for years been supporting Syrian refugee camps in Turkey. According to Beasley, such assistance will now be scaled up to include Turkish families who have been left homeless.
The situation on the Syrian side is a “catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” Beasley said, referring the effects of the earthquake on the infrastructure and buildings already weakened as a result of 12 years of conflict.
The WFP said that Beasley had also visited a UN logistics hub where trucks are loaded with food and other emergency supplies before crossing over into northwest Syria.
The delivery of humanitarian aid to northern Syria following the earthquake was problematic as a result of there being several parties controlling different parts of the country. The Syrian earthquake victims cried out for help for two weeks before an additional two border crossings were reopened between Turkey and Syria to speed up the disaster relief efforts.
A fund totalling $80 million is required to ramp up humanitarian aid in Turkey, while another $150 million is needed to support 800,000 people affected in Syria for six months, according to WFP estimates.
An additional $300 million is required to maintain the WFP’s food assistance programme across all of Syria for 5.5 million people every month. If this is not received, the UN Food Programme will be forced to halt its assistance to 3.8 million Syrians within months, they said.