Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has called for an urgent scaling up of humanitarian supplies to northwest Syria after warning that supplies fail to even match pre-earthquake volumes. The earthquake that struck on 6 February left 180,000 people homeless in addition to the two million people displaced by 12 years of war in the region.
A Médecins Sans Frontières convoy of 14 trucks carrying 1,296 tents and 1,296 winter kits arrived in northwestern Syria on 20 February via the Hammam border crossing point. The winter kits are intended to insulate the tents from the cold for families of five or more people who have been left homeless by the earthquake. Other MSF convoys are planned to follow quickly to deliver medical and non-medical equipment.
According to MSF, the number of trucks crossing the border into northwest Syria in the ten days following the earthquake was lower than the average number for 2022. While MSF teams have been present in the area for more than ten years and were able to immediately launch an emergency response, an urgent increase in the volume of supplies is needed to match the scale of the humanitarian crisis.
MSF’s head of mission for Syria, Hakim Khaldi, explained, “We emptied our emergency stocks in three days, donating nearly 12 tons (4,000 cubic meters) of surgical equipment, dressing and medicines to hospitals. Our teams provided support to the health facilities in the area until they were exhausted. But we did not see any help from the outside. Aid is trickling in in negligible amounts for the moment.”
MSF teams have identified enormous unmet needs in terms of relief, particularly in terms of access to accommodation and decent hygiene conditions, which are far from being granted. MSF is currently providing relief and medical support to the people living in five reception centres in Northern Idlib, including health care and the distribution of tents, water, bread, blankets, mattresses, and fire extinguishers. Activities aimed at ensuring the continuity of access to health care for both earthquake victims and the general population are starting next week.
Humanitarian aid provided to the region through the cross-border mechanism has not even matched its pre-earthquake average volume yet. According to UN data, only ten trucks had entered Syria through Bab al-Hawa, an UN-coordinated border crossing point for humanitarian aid from neighbouring Turkey, five days after the earthquake.
As of 17 February, a total of 178 trucks loaded with aid provided by six UN agencies had crossed into northwest Syria through Bab Al-Hawa and Bab Al-Salama since the earthquake 11 days before. In 2022, 7,566 trucks loaded with aid crossed from Türkiye into northwest Syria, which represents an average of 227 trucks for the same period of 11 days.
MSF called for the immediate scaling up of assistance to the people affected by the earthquake in northwest Syria, with priority given to supplying shelters and water and sanitation equipment, as well as the medical supplies necessary for post-operative care and to maintain continuity of care, among other urgently needed items.
As a non-governmental organisation of French origin, MSF is known for its projects in conflict zones and countries affected by endemic diseases. It has been present in Syria since 2009, providing medical and humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people in the country.