Sky News has been told by a UN aid chief that the provision of additional border crossings from Turkey to Syria is a “open and shut” case on humanitarian grounds after the “mega” disaster.
Martin Griffiths stressed the urgency of the situation and said that additional corridors were required now to increase the assistance reaching earthquake-stricken regions and save lives.
Sky’s Kay Burley was able to speak to UN’s emergency relief coordinator as he headed to Damascus, to urge for action.
He seeks authorization from the UN Security Council for more crossing points to be opened, which Russia, a key ally of Syria’s regime, has previously blocked.
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More than 3500 people were killed in the earthquake in Syria. This was after a 12-year conflict that had already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions to flee.
The civil war has divided the country into two zones of control, making it difficult to provide aid even before Monday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the border regions of Turkey and Syria.
The Syrian government is currently under Western sanctions and has called for UN assistance. However, it insists that all aid must be coordinated with Damascus, delivered from Syria and not across the Turkish border to rebel areas.
Some observers accuse Damascus de directing aid to loyalist areas.
Griffiths stated that he would like to increase the relief efforts to Syria.
He stated that it was a massive operation, but now it will be at a higher level and pace than before the earthquake.
“We also seek authorization from the security council for opening up a few additional crossing points to maximize the supply we get to the people in the northwest.”
He said, “Frankly, it’s an open case in humanitarian terms. Why do we need those extra crossing points? To save lives and provide some assistance to the people as the go into the post-rescue phase.
“So, I hope it will go through. “I think we’ll find out in a couple of days.”
There was also concern about a possible health emergency.
Mr Griffiths stated that it is common for water supplies to become contaminated in natural disasters like this. You start getting diseases.
“Cholera” is already present in northwest Syria and could easily go viral if there aren’t enough safe water supplies.
“Making sure water supplies, electricity, and so on, that means also helping to provide spare parts.
“Sometimes there are limits that sanctions impose. We must ensure that this doesn’t happen.”
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He said, “There should not be any politicization or political choice as to where aid goes.” It should be based on need.”
He expressed concern about the worsening security situation Turkey which has led to some aid organizations being forced to suspend their operations
People are becoming more frustrated trying to survive in frigid temperatures and depleted supplies of food, medicine, and water.
Although he called it “really alarming”, Griffiths stated that he could see the tension and it was not surprising. The extraordinary stress of waiting, hoping, and longing for people still below the rubble is evident.
Andrew Mitchell, Foreign Office minister, spoke to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday program. He said that aid was reaching Turkey but added that the international community is stretched further in Syria.
‘Very serious jeopardy’
He said: “We were also able to pass the UN-opening crossing, but it was damaged by the earthquake. The UN can’t use the three other crossings from Turkey to Syria because of the Russian veto.”
“It’s in Syria that the real problems are.”
Mitchell warned that people were in “very grave danger” because of the absence of support and infrastructure.