SARMADA: The first UN delegation to visit rebel-held northwestern Syria since last week’s earthquake crossed over from Turkiye Tuesday, an AFP correspondent reported, as anger simmers at the world body’s slow response.
More than 35,000 people were killed when the quake devastated swathes of Syria and neighboring Turkiye on February 6, at least 3,600 of them in Syria, according to government officials and emergency services in rebel areas.
“A multi-agency mission has gone this morning from the Turkiye side across the border crossing… It’s largely an assessment mission,” the World Food Programme’s Syria director, Kenn Crossley, told AFP in Geneva.
The delegation comprised deputy regional humanitarian coordinator David Carden and Sanjana Quazi, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Turkiye.
Activists and emergency teams in the northwest have decried the UN’s slow response to the quake in rebel-held areas, contrasting it with the planeloads of humanitarian aid that have been delivered to government-controlled airports.
“I don’t want to sit here and give excuses, but I wanted to share that we are all collectively in the same place,” Quazi told reporters in the rebel-held town of Sarmada, close to the border.
“I think we also know that it is not enough,” she said, adding that the UN was doing its best to provide aid to the northwest.
They visited a WFP center in Sarmada and held a 40-minute meeting with officials at the Bab Al-Hawa crossing — the only transit point on the Turkish border for UN aid deliveries to rebel-held areas.
On a visit to the Turkish side of the Bab Al-Hawa crossing on Sunday, during which he met Syrian rescue teams, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths admitted that the world body had “so far failed the people in northwest Syria.”
Griffiths also visited government-controlled areas devastated by the earthquake.
Before the quake struck, almost all of the humanitarian aid for the more than four million people living in rebel-controlled areas was delivered from Turkiye through the Bab Al-Hawa crossing.