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Statements Special Procedures

SYRIA: UN expert calls for immediate and unhindered access to lifesaving-aid after deadly earthquake

14 February 2023

GENEVA (14 February 2023)The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health Tlaleng Mofokeng today urged all parties to ensure swift and unimpeded delivery of aid and relief to all those in need following the deadly earthquake that claimed the lives of thousands and caused widespread damage, destruction on both sides of the border. She issued the following statement: 

“A week after the devastating earthquake affecting Türkiye and Syria, the Special Rapporteur wishes to express her solidarity with all the victims. In Syria, survivors are in desperate need of urgent and coordinated aid, medical and psychosocial assistance. Syria’s people have already been profoundly affected by more than a decade of violence and armed conflict. The combination of protracted hostilities, food crisis, damaged infrastructure, poverty, the COVID-19 pandemic and the cholera outbreak across Syria has resulted in a very fragile health and social systems.

Based on UN estimates, 6.1 million people have been affected by the earthquake. The health system, already at a breaking point, has been severely impacted, with several medical infrastructures damaged or put out of service. Essential health medical supplies have been destroyed leaving healthcare providers exhausted, overwhelmed and without the capacity to manage life threatening conditions, in particular emergency obstetric and newborn care. Displaced women and girls have reported high needs of menstrual hygiene supplies and have reported poor water and sanitation conditions in shelters.

In the coming days and weeks, it is essential to restore the continuity of health care services without discrimination, especially for women, children, elderly, persons with disabilities persons and with non-communicable diseases, including mental health and psycho-social support. It is critical to facilitate the entry and distribution of medicines, supplies, equipment, trauma and surgical supplies, prosthetics, assistive devices, and basic first aid kits, as well as reproductive health medical supplies, menstrual health material, and maternal and newborn items.

I urge all parties to provide full access, including through opening more cross border points and stepping up cross line routes, to allow relief items and humanitarian staff into affected areas, in line with humanitarian principles, and in full respect of their human rights and International Humanitarian Law obligations. We cannot fail the people in need in Northern Syria.

In the coming weeks and months, humanitarian relief will also have to keep protection at its center and address underlying structural problems to contribute to the long-term reduction in vulnerabilities which have made this earthquake even more destructive.”


Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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