Donors’ Conference to be convened by the EU on Monday 20th March must ensure that support from international community levels up to address severity of needs.
Today, March 15th, marks the anniversary of the conflict in Syria that has led to the deaths of more than half a million people, left hundreds of thousands of people injured, and fuelled one of history’s largest and most protracted forced displacement crisis. Since 2011, more than six million Syrians have fled their homeland to escape the conflict, and over 6.9 million people have been displaced within the country, many of them several times. According to the UN, across Syria over 14 million people rely on humanitarian assistance to survive. The global impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and rising inflation, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, had put more people in severe need even before last month’s earthquakes struck.
In a statement released today, Irish humanitarian aid agency GOAL said that the catastrophic earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria on 6th February have compounded what was already an extremely dire situation for the people of Syria. In Northwest Syria, where GOAL has delivered humanitarian assistance since 2012, it is estimated that more than 1.1 million people have been directly affected by the disaster, with over 4,500 deaths and 8,700 injuries recorded to date.
GOAL’s Director of External Relations, Mary Van Lieshout said it is critical that the international community rises up to the task of addressing increasing humanitarian needs following the earthquake.
“This is a crisis within a crisis. Prior to the earthquake, millions of people across Syria already relied on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic needs. Northern Syria has been subject to relentless conflict for the past 12 years, yet the scale of the devastation from the earthquake is like nothing we’ve ever witnessed before.”
“The Donors Conference that will be convened next Monday will hear that the EU urgently allocated funds and assistance to help meet the immediate needs of the affected populations following the earthquakes. But now at this conference to support communities in Türkiye and Syria, the EU must rally all international partners and global donors to ramp up solidarity in this incredibly fragile and challenging context and mobilise pledges in line with the scale and magnitude of the horrific damage that the earthquake caused,” continued Mary Van Lieshout.
More than 4.5 million people live in Northwest Syria, where the majority of the population consists of women, children, and the elderly. The region is host to hundreds of thousands of families who were displaced in the conflict, around half of them residing in makeshift tents in camps. After the earthquakes, many of those who considered themselves lucky to have a roof above their head joined the ranks of the displaced, with 18,000 buildings across Idleb and Northern Aleppo collapsing or suffering severe damage. It is estimated that at least 235,000 people were made homeless in the disaster.
Operating in Northwest Syria since 2012, GOAL currently has more than 950 local staff members delivering aid in Idleb and Northern Aleppo, supported by teams in Türkiye, Jordan, and Dublin, reaching more than 1.5 million people with vital humanitarian aid and assistance every year.
GOAL began responding to the earthquakes immediately, assisting in local search and rescue operations in Idleb and distributing ready-to-eat food baskets to affected populations in Northern Aleppo. The organisation is also building on its existing bakery support programme, helping provide affordable bread to a further 285,000 people in addition to the more than 500,000 individuals that already benefit from this support.
To provide access to clean water and reduce the growing risk of a cholera outbreak, GOAL is rehabilitating water services in areas where piped water systems have been damaged and is delivering water by trucks to displacement sites hosting affected communities. GOAL is also providing emergency cash assistance in both Idleb and Northern Aleppo, targeting over 80,000 people.
Speaking about the organisation’s ongoing emergency response programme in the region, GOAL’s Country Director for Syria, Jeannie Zielinski, said: “Despite the immense personal challenges that the earthquakes brought to our staff, including the tragic loss of 31 of our colleagues in Syria and Türkiye, they are still working tirelessly to support affected communities. We must continue to do everything we can to ensure that vulnerable families can survive as Syrian communities try to rebuild in the face of unprecedented devastation.”