After the war, the earthquake further pushed Syrians to the brink of humanitarian collapse.
Twelve years after the beginning of the Syrian’s civil war the country remains the world’s largest refugee crisis with more than 7 million Syrians displaced in neighbouring countries. Over 3.5 million are hosted in Turkey, while 1.5 million are scattered between Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq.
According to the UNHCR, over 70% of Syrian refugees live in poverty, with limited access to education, job opportunities, and health services. Poverty and unemployment in hosting countries are the greatest challenges Syrians face daily. Millions have now been further pushed into poverty by the aftermath of the quake.
In Syria, the situation is even worse, with more than 90 per cent of people living below the poverty line. The 2022 Syria Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) gauges that over 14.6 million people need humanitarian assistance inside Syria. Over six million are displaced internally: at least 1.9 million Syrians, mainly women and children, are living in opposition-held areas of North West Syria.
Following the earthquake, OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) said that more than 4.500 deaths and 8,700 injuries have been reported in northwest Syria. Over 10,600 buildings were shattered by the quake, while at least 86,000 people were forced to move elsewhere due to the utter destruction of entire provinces.
According to the UNHCR, the country’s basic water and electricity infrastructure was already destroyed after over a decade of war. The February 6th earthquake further destabilised the governorate of Idlib and Aleppo and is having catastrophic consequences for the population.
Since 2016, Idlib province and part of the governorate of Aleppo are the major hubs for people fleeing from the government-held provinces. These regions have witnessed a spike in the number of internally displaced people in desperate need of humanitarian support.
The earthquake only adds destruction to an already tragic humanitarian situation and according to local sources, could set a new phase for future migration routes.
In Syria, only 65% of hospitals and 56% of public health care centres are fully functional while over 2M people live in informal settlements and planned camps. At least 553,000 children are chronically malnourished and 245,000 are acutely malnourished, and a record 265,000 pregnant and lactating women have acute wasting. Food insecurity remains in Syria the most impellent issue to tackle.
The World Food Program (WFP) has called on European countries to increase their help to relieve the desperate needs of refugees in post-quake reconstruction efforts before a new refugee crisis will knock at their doors.
According to WFP’s director, David Basely, quoted by the Reuters “time is running out and we are running out of money. Our operation is about $50 million a month for our earthquake response alone, so unless Europe wants a new wave of refugees, we need to get the support we need.”
Paulo Pinheiro, chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, following the earthquake said that “though there were many acts of heroism amid the suffering, we also witnessed a wholesale failure by the Government and the international community, including the United Nations, to rapidly direct life-saving support to Syrians in the direst need.”