The UN says that at least 50,000 have been killed in earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

The devastating earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria have killed at least 50,000 people with many more injured, tens of thousands still missing and hundreds of thousands homeless

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that three weeks after the 7.8-magnitude quake struck southern Turkey and northern Syria, followed by powerful aftershocks including Monday, the scale of the disaster is now much clearer: At least 44,000 people have been killed in Turkey and around 6,000 in Syria, mainly in the rebel-held northwest.

The UN’s $397.6 million flash appeal to help Syrian earthquake victims is 42% funded and the $1 billion appeal for victims in Turkey is only 7.4% funded – and this only covers emergency needs for the next three months, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.

Griffiths told the council meeting focusing on Syria that before the earthquakes, 15.3 million people – 70% of the country’s population – needed humanitarian assistance, and he said he saw during a post-quake visit that in harsh winter conditions whole neighborhoods have been destroyed.

“Early assessments indicated that 5 million people in Syria are in need of basic shelter and non-food assistance,” the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said. “In many areas, four to five families are packed into tents, with no special facilities for elderly people, people with chronic diseases or the disabled.”

In addition, Griffiths told council members that hundreds of buildings are at high risk of collapsing, thousands more may have to be demolished, the risk of disease is increasing amid a cholera outbreak before the quake, and the price of food and other essential items is climbing higher.

“Women and children face increased harassment, violence and risk of exploitation, and the need for psychosocial support is great,” he said.

Griffiths said machinery needs to be imported into Syria to clear rubble, equipment is needed for makeshift hospitals, and tools are needed to restore access to potable water.

“The UN is working to address unintended obstacles generated by sanctions and counter-terrorism laws, including procurement obstacles and delays for materials to repair essential infrastructure, medical equipment or security equipment for our operations,” he said.

In the case of Turkey, the two very large earthquakes on February 6 caused an estimated $34.2 billion in direct physical damage, equivalent to 4% of the country’s GDP in 2021, according to a World Bank rapid damage report released on Monday.

The report said recovery and reconstruction costs would be much greater, potentially twice as much, and that GDP losses linked to economic disruptions would also add to the cost of the earthquakes.

—— Fatima Hussein contributed to this report from Washington.

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