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WHO director makes first visit to Syria after the earthquake


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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, visited rebel-held northwest Syria on Wednesday to see the damage caused by the earthquake last month, according to an AFP correspondent.

Tedros visited the government-controlled regions of Aleppo and Damascus the week before the disaster, making him the highest-ranking UN representative to do so since the earthquake on February 6.

He entered Syria on Wednesday from neighboring Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, according to the correspondent, and visited a number of hospitals and a shelter for the displaced.

Activists and emergency teams in the rebel-held northwest criticized the UN’s tardy response after the earthquake, contrasting it with the planeloads of humanitarian aid that have been delivered to airports under government control.

A total of 258 planes carrying aid, including 129 from the United Arab Emirates, have arrived in regime-controlled areas.

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UN relief chief Martin Griffiths admitted on February 12 that the body had “so far failed the people in northwest Syria”.

Since then, a $397 million appeal has been made by the UN to aid earthquake victims in Syria.

Since the tragedy, 420 trucks carrying UN aid have reportedly entered the rebel-held area, according to the UN.

The north and northwest of Syria is home to more than four million people, 90% of whom are dependent on aid for survival.

On February 9, three days after the earthquake, the first UN aid convoy entered the region, bringing with it tents and other supplies for 5,000 people who had been anticipated to require assistance.


The only way for aid to enter without Damascus’s permission is through the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which the UN primarily uses to deliver aid to northwest Syria through the neighboring country of Turkey.

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The crossing is situated in the Idlib region, which Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist organization, governs and which UN representatives infrequently visit.

On February 12, the head of the WHO reported that Assad had indicated a willingness for more border crossings so that aid could be delivered to earthquake victims in the rebel-held northwest.

On February 13, the UN reported that Damascus had given it permission to use Bab al-Salama and Al-Rai, two additional crossings in regions beyond its control, for a period of three months.

A new aid convoy arrived on Wednesday, according to an AFP correspondent, via Bab al-Salama.

Following the earthquake, the first UN delegation to enter rebel-held northern Syria left Turkey on February 14.

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It was primarily an assessment mission and included Sanjana Quazi, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Turkey, and David Carden, deputy regional humanitarian coordinator.

More than 50,000 people died in both Turkey and war-torn Syria as a result of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake.

According to the Syrian government, 1,414 people died in areas under its control, while 4,537 people, according to Syrian officials with support from Turkey, died in rebel-held areas.

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