Some 5.3 million people in Syria may have been affected by a devastating earthquake last week and will need some form of shelter assistance, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) representative in Syria, Sivanka Dhanapala, said on Friday.
“We have just had a preliminary estimate that 5.37 million people affected by the quake will need shelter assistance in the whole of Syria. That is a huge number and comes to a population already suffering mass displacement,” Dhanapala said at a press briefing held in Geneva.
According to Dhanapala, UNHCR is focusing on shelter and relief items as well as tents, plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, sleeping mats and winter clothing in its operations in Syria.
Roads have been damaged, hampering the UN agency’s efforts to reach people in the country.
A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on Monday was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.
The quake flattened thousands of structures, trapping an unknown number of people and potentially impacting millions. Officials and medics said more than 35,000 people have died in both countries and that tens of thousands have been injured.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday appealed for $77 million to provide food rations and hot meals for 874,000 people affected by the earthquake.
The number of people in need of aid “includes 284,000 newly displaced people in Syria and 590,000 people in Turkey, which includes 45,000 refugees and 545,000 internally displaced people,” the Rome-based organization said in a statement.