UN and partners are preparing the first cross-border aid convoy to north-west Syria since a 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck southern Türkiye on 6 February. The cross-border operation was temporarily disrupted as the road connecting Gaziantep to the UN Transshipment Hub in Hatay was impaired. As of 8 February, two alternative routes have been identified to reach the Hub following feasibility assessments, from Gaziantep via Kilis-Kirikhan and from Mersin via Adana-Kirikhan.
UN cross-border assistance has served as a lifeline to millions in north-west Syria since 2014. The Bab Al-Hawa at the Türkiye-Syria border is the single remaining border-crossing authorized by the Security Council for UN aid delivery. In 2022, some 600 trucks loaded with aid crossed Türkiye each month, reaching 2.6 million Syrians on average.
“We have a glimmer of hope that we can reach people,” said Muhannad Hadi, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis in a press briefing today. “We are hoping that tomorrow we will be able to deliver something across the border,” he added.
The emergency response to the earthquake continues on its third day. Death tolls in Türkiye and north-west Syria are climbing by the hour, reaching more than 11,000 people as of 8 February – a 450 per cent increase since the reported figure in the first OCHA Flash Update. At least 648 aftershocks have been reported.
Responder teams from around the world are being mobilized to Türkiye. According to Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) of Türkiye, the total number of search and rescue personnel in the region is 79,110 as of the morning of 8 February. A United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) response team dedicated to the response in Gaziantep landed in Adana on 8 February. Plans are underway for further deployments to Karhamanmaraş and potentially to Adiyaman.
Meanwhile, the situation remains grim in north-west Syria where only five per cent of reported sites are being covered by search and rescue operations. The lack of heavy machines to remove rubble and winter weather conditions have significantly complicated these efforts. Major power outages have resulted in fuel shortages in hospitals. As many as 11,000 families are now homeless, according to local authorities. Over 5,000 injuries and 2,000 deaths have been reported.
In a joint statement released on 7 February, Mr. Hadi appealed “to all donor partners to provide the assistance necessary to alleviate suffering,” following the release of a $25 million grant by the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) on the same day. The Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund (SCHF), which allocated $138 million in 2022, is currently limited and requires donors to further support 2023 activities with a focus on the earthquake response.