UN launches $1 bln appeal for Turkey earthquake victims

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The United Nations launched an appeal for $1 billion Thursday to help victims in Turkey of last week’s catastrophic earthquake that killed thousands of people and left millions more in desperate need of aid.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the funds would provide humanitarian relief for three months to 5.2 million people.

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The money would “allow aid organizations to rapidly scale up vital support,” including in the areas of food security, protection, education, water and shelter, he added.

“The needs are enormous, people are suffering and there’s no time to lose,” Guterres implored. “I urge the international community to step up and fully fund this critical effort in response to one of the biggest natural disasters of our times.”

The 7.8-magnitude tremor early on February 6 has killed more than 35,000 people in southeast Turkey, with several thousand more losing their lives across the border in Syria.

More than 9 million people in Turkey have been directly impacted by the disaster, according to Ankara.

Turkey’s people have experienced “unspeakable heartache,” the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a separate statement announcing the flash appeal.

“We must stand with them in their darkest hour and ensure they receive the support they need,” added Griffiths, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA said in its statement that hundreds of thousands of people, including small children and elderly people, are without access to shelter, food, water, heaters and medical care in freezing temperatures.

It added that some 47,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged across Turkey, with thousands of people having sought refuge in temporary shelters.

The UN is delivering hot meals, food, tents, warm winter clothing, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets and medical supplies to affected areas, OCHA said.

On Tuesday, the UN launched a $397 million appeal to help quake victims in Syria.

The United Nations earlier provided $50 million to relief efforts through its central emergency response fund.

Read more: Con-artists exploiting Turkey-Syria earthquake to scam donations online: Report

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