Some 23 million people stand to be impacted by Monday’s earthquakes that devastated Turkey’s Kurdish- and Arab-majority southeastern provinces as well as much of northern Syria, according to a World Health Organisation (WHO) official.
Adelheid Marschang, WHO senior emergencies officer, told UN health agency executive committee on Tuesday that the 23 million figure included five million people in vulnerable populations, Agence-France Presse reported.
There are still areas that have received little to no aid or rescue teams in Turkey, but according to Adelheid, Syria was in a more extreme state. “All over Syria, the needs are highest after nearly 12 years of protracted complex crisis,” Marschang said.
The earthquakes are top priority for the WHO, whose Europe regional director Dr Hans Kluge told Sky News on Tuesday that it was “very important that the international community agrees on a humanitarian corridor and opens the Bab al-Hawa cross border point”.
Turkey’s own death toll rose above 8,574 on Wednesday.
The Syrian central government has reported more than 800 dead and 1,500 injured to date, while White Helmets estimate atleast 1,000 people have already lost their lives in northwest Syria, which is under the control of Turkey-backed rebel factions.
Syria’s Sana News Agency cited Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad as saying in an interview on Tuesday that Western sanctions on the country “exacerbated the disaster”.
The Syrian government is calling for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries. On Monday, US State Department Spokesman Ned Price told reporters that it would be “ironic, if not even counterproductive, for us to reach out to a government that has brutalized its people over the course of a dozen years now”.
The Iraqi government has sent relief materials on planes to Damascus, and Turkey has already received the first batch of support materials sent by the Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), local outlets report.
While the Barzani Charity Foundation sent aid to northern Syria as well, local sources report that two trucks of the NGO ran by Iraqi Kurdistan’s ruling family were stopped in Turkey’s Gaziantep province, with Turkish officials saying all aid to Syria must go through Turkey’s official channels as the United Nations had no presence in the region.