Northwest Syria of ‘greatest concern’ after earthquake: WHO

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The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it was particularly concerned over the welfare of people in northwestern Syria, a rebel-held region with little access to aid, since the earthquakes struck last week.

“It’s clear that the zone of greatest concern at the moment is the area of northwestern Syria,” WHO’s emergencies director, Mike Ryan, told a briefing in Geneva.


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“The impact of the earthquake in areas of Syria controlled by the government is significant, but the services are there and there is access to those people. We have to remember here that in Syria, we’ve had ten years of war. The health system is amazingly fragile. People have been through hell.”

Efforts to distribute aid have been hampered by a civil war that has splintered the country for more than a decade. Civil war enmities have obstructed at least two attempts to send aid across frontlines into Syria’s northwest, but an aid convoy reached the area overnight.

During a visit to Damascus in the wake of last Monday’s quakes, senior WHO officials asked Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to open more border crossings with Turkey to ensure aid reaches the area, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.

Assad authorized two more border crossings into northwest Syria on Monday, a move the Human Rights Watch advocacy group described as “too little, too late.”

Ryan, however, described the opening of the crossing points as a sign “all sides are stepping back and focusing on the needs of the people right now.”

“It is an impossibility at times to provide adequate health care in the context of eternal conflict,” he said.

“We’ve seen a huge ramp up of aid. We’ve seen the deployment of emergency medical teams. We’ve seen all the things that we need to see in a disaster. But this is not sustainable unless we have a more peaceful context in which this can happen more effectively.”

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