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Aid in Syria after earthquake still not enough

More than a week after the earthquake in the Syrian-Turkish border region, the situation in Syria, a country in civil war, remains critical. Andreas Knapp, Caritas General Secretary for Foreign Aid, traveled to the crisis area in Aleppo on Friday. “Aid in Syria has started, but it is still insufficient,” he said in an interview with the APA. “International solidarity” is now needed. “We cannot leave Syria alone,” Knapp appealed.

“The collective housing, in particular, is hopelessly overcrowded. People’s fear is still great,” said the president of the Neighbors in Need Foundation and general secretary for international programs at Caritas Austria. It is very cold in Aleppo at night. Emergency shelters are overcrowded, many people are on the streets. More housing for the homeless is urgently needed, said the president of the Neighbors in Need Foundation. There are currently deficits in the coordination of aid measures. “For example, there is almost too much food in emergency shelters, but only in school toilets in public buildings and schools, where there are no toilet facilities,” Knapp reported. Survivors haven’t been able to wash for days. “People are reaching the end of their resilience,” said the Caritas secretary general. Aid measures are now at a critical stage, “there must be more coordinated aid”.

About 200,000 people in Aleppo were left homeless by the earthquake eight days ago. Many people are still waiting for permission to return to their partially destroyed homes. According to authorities, dozens of buildings are checked daily for the risk of collapse. The plan is for about 100 teams, consisting of a government official and an engineer, to statically check the homes, Knapp said. “There is sort of a traffic light system. Red means very dangerous, these houses need to be demolished,” said the president of the Neighbors in Need Foundation. The city is now demolishing several buildings that the earthquake has yet to bring down due to severe damage. If buildings are classified as yellow – for dangerous – they should be structurally examined more closely. If it’s green, people can go back into the building. People now expect their homes to be inspected. Closing that process “would create some relaxation and clarity for people,” Knapp said.

According to the UN, one in three buildings in Aleppo was destroyed by earthquakes. Many buildings in the city have already been damaged by the war, which has lasted twelve years. “Many buildings were destroyed, especially in the eastern part of Aleppo, which was also heavily bombed,” Knapp said. The population has already gone through several crises. Those people who lived in semi-destroyed areas before the strong earthquake “are again being hit hard, it hurts”, said the secretary general of Caritas. The Tyrolean man knows the country in civil war, he already managed UNICEF’s water programs in Syria from 2017 to 2018. So he was almost warned. Seeing the suffering and problems of the population for the first time would have been “a very difficult thing”.

Aleppo is under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s government troops. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of victims of the strong earthquake in Syria is at least 5,900. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that up to 5.3 million people across Syria were left homeless by the earthquake.