(Brussels) International donors are called on Monday to mobilize in favor of the populations of Turkey and Syria hit by the devastating earthquake of February 6, which killed more than 50,000 people and caused enormous destruction.
A conference to raise funds and coordinate relief and reconstruction operations is organized by the EU in Brussels, in coordination with the Turkish authorities.
Millions of people have seen their homes destroyed in the earthquake-affected area in southeastern Turkey and northern Syria, home to a large population of refugees or displaced by the Syrian conflict. According to a preliminary estimate by the UN, the material damage alone in Turkey exceeds 100 billion dollars.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) had regretted a fortnight ago the weak response to the emergency appeal launched by the UN in mid-February to raise more than a billion dollars for Turkey, and nearly $400 million for Syria.
The appeal for Turkey has so far only been funded at 16%.
The NGO International Rescue Committee (IRC) has called on donors to ensure that these appeals are fully covered and that funds can reach aid organizations on the ground “without delay”.
“More than a month after the earthquake, the situation in the affected areas remains desperate. With many homes damaged or destroyed, many people have no choice but to sleep in overcrowded and under-equipped mass shelters,” said Tanya Evans, IRC Syria Director.
The EU has indicated that it intends, together with its member states, to “make significant commitments”, and called on its international partners to make “pledges commensurate with the damage suffered”.
The magnitude 7.8 quake, followed by another nine hours later, killed nearly 48,500 people in Turkey, according to the latest official report. Nearly 6,000 people have also lost their lives in Syria.
In Turkey, floods hit two of the provinces affected by the earthquake on Wednesday, leaving around 20 people dead or missing and adding to the distress of the survivors.
The conference is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. EST) with remarks from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, whose country holds the six-monthly Presidency of the Council of the EU, as well as that, by videoconference, of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The latter, candidate for his own succession on May 14, asked “forgiveness” to the populations affected by the earthquake for the delays in the arrival of relief and promised a reconstruction at the pace, “in one year”.
Even if relations are often tense, Turkey is a key partner for the European Union, which has paid more than five billion euros to this country to help it cope with the reception of Syrian refugees.
By contrast, the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sanctioned by the West since the 2011 crackdown on the popular uprising that degenerated into civil war, is not associated with the conference.
Although international aid was quickly sent to Turkey after the earthquake, humanitarian organizations found themselves facing major difficulties in providing support to the Syrian population, particularly in the rebel area of Idlib (north-west ).
The EU and US have since eased sanctions on Syria, while Damascus has agreed to allow the UN to open two more border crossings to help deliver more aid.
Since the earthquake, moreover, several Arab countries have resumed contact with Damascus and sent aid.
The Syrian president arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for an official visit, his second to the Gulf since the earthquake. The Emirates have pledged more than $100 million in aid.
Russia, Damascus’ main ally, is excluded from the Brussels donors’ conference because of the war in Ukraine.