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UN Syria Commission: Urgent action required to assist those impacted by earthquakes, including a countrywide ceasefire to enable humanitarian access


07 February 2023

The UN Syria Commission extends its deepest condolences to all people in Syria and Türkiye affected by the devastating earthquakes and reiterates its call for a comprehensive ceasefire in Syria to enable optimal rescue and relief efforts. The Commission urges the international community to act rapidly to provide humanitarian aid and support and calls on all parties to provide immediate and unfettered humanitarian access to all areas affected by the earthquakes to provide life-saving assistance.

The first Monday morning earthquake was reportedly the most powerful in the region in decades and will compound suffering in a country already devastated by 12 years of crisis and war. North and northwest Syria, which hosts millions of people displaced from years of fighting across the country, appears to be most heavily impacted by the earthquake.

“My fellow commissioners and I and our team express sincere condolences to the families of those killed and wish a speedy recovery to those affected by today’s tragedy. We call on all parties to the conflict in Syria to commit to a comprehensive ceasefire to enable humanitarian workers and rescuers to reach those in need without fear of attacks,” said Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission. “Humanitarian access must be secured so that aid reaches all those in need in line with humanitarian principles. Many Syrians are now without shelter among collapsed buildings, in the rain and the snow, amid freezing temperatures with untold numbers trapped beneath the rubble. Now is the time for solidarity”, he continued.

The Syrian conflict intensified across multiple frontlines in the second part of last year and people in the north and northwest are reeling from recent waves of fighting and deadly attacks on civilian areas and displacement camps.

“Syrians are already facing a harsh winter amid an ongoing cholera outbreak, with health facilities and aid workers strained from years of warfare and direct attacks, and they will require re-doubled support from the international community to meet the needs of those affected by this tragedy,” stressed Commissioner Hanny Megally.

Syria still has one of the largest numbers of internally displaced people in the world: 6.8 million people. The number of Syrians requiring humanitarian assistance to survive is the highest since the beginning of the war and the Commission notes that this earthquake will likely only increase burdens on affected Syrians, in particular women and children.

“Women and children often face increased risk of discrimination, abuse, and exploitation following natural disasters. Many of the women affected by today’s earthquake   are likely to be heads of households or internally displaced, or both. Particular care must be taken to ensure their protection and support amid the multiple crises they are now facing”, added Commissioner Lynn Welchman.