The devastating earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria killed at least 50,000 people, injured many more, left tens of thousands missing, and displaced hundreds of thousands, according to the UN humanitarian chief on Tuesday.
Three weeks after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, which was followed by powerful aftershocks including one on Monday, Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that the scale of the catastrophe is now much clearer: About 6,000 people have died in Syria, mostly in the rebel-held northwest, while at least 44,000 have died in Turkey.
According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, the $397.6 million UN flash appeal for the Syrian earthquake victims is 42% funded and the $1 billion UN appeal for Turkiye earthquake victims is only 7.4% funded, which only covers emergency needs for the next three months.
Prior to the earthquakes, 15.3 million people—or 70% of the population—needed humanitarian assistance, according to Griffiths, who also noted that during a post-quake visit, he observed that entire neighborhoods had been destroyed amid severe winter weather.
Early evaluations showed that 5 million Syrians needed non-food assistance and basic shelter, according to the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs. Four to five families are frequently crammed into tents without any accommodations for the elderly, those with chronic illnesses, or those with disabilities.
In addition, Griffiths warned council members that thousands of additional structures may need to be demolished, hundreds of buildings face a high risk of collapsing, a cholera outbreak prior to the earthquake is increasing the risk of disease, and the cost of food and other necessities is rising.
“There is a great need for psychosocial support because women and children are more likely to be harassed, victimized, or exploited,” he said.
According to Griffiths, equipment for makeshift hospitals, machinery for rubble removal, and tools for reestablishing water access are all needed in Syria.
He added, “The UN is working to address unintended challenges brought about by sanctions and counterterrorism laws, including procurement challenges and delays for materials to repair vital infrastructure, medical supplies, or security equipment for our operations.
The two very large earthquakes that struck Turkiye on February 6 “caused an estimated $34.2 billion in direct physical damages,” which is equal to 4% of the nation’s GDP in 2021, according to a World Bank rapid damage assessment report released on Monday.
The costs of recovery and reconstruction will likely double, according to the report, and GDP losses due to business disruptions will also increase the price of the earthquakes.