North-West Syria: Situation Report (28 February 2023) [EN/AR]



More than 4,500 deaths and 8,700 injuries have been reported in north-west Syria, as of 28 February, since an earthquake of 7.7 magnitude struck Türkiye on 6 February.


As of 28 February, more than 10,000 buildings have been completely or partially destroyed in north-west Syria.


Shelter, winterization and multi-purpose cash needs were identified as top priorities among displaced populations, according to a rapid assessment conducted by REACH.


As of 28 February, a total of 423 trucks loaded with aid provided by six UN agencies have so far crossed to north-west Syria since the earthquakes.


On 21 February, a UN delegation comprised of IOM, OCHA, UNDSS, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO visited hospitals, a camp and reception center in Harim, Salqin and Ma’arrat Misrin.


2023 Earthquake: Situation Overview in North-west Syria


“I buried them and went back to work.”


Abdul Al-Basit Khalil, an anesthetist at the Harim General Hospital, lost his wife and daughter to the earthquakes. He was on call at the time, tending to patients, when the walls suddenly shook without any warning.


His first instinct was to run and check his nearby home. But by the time he got there, the building was no longer recognizable.


“It is a difficult feeling when your family is under the rubble yet you cannot do anything about it,” he said.


Abdul Al-Basit recalled going back to work immediately as the hospital was quickly flooded with patients injured by the earthquakes. He was hopeful that two of the incoming cases were his wife and daughter but they never showed up.


Three days later, a bulldozer came to his neighborhood and recovered the bodies of his loved ones from the pile of debris of what was once their home.


“I buried them and I went back to work at the hospital,” he shared. “I could not save my family, but there are still many people whose lives are in danger and they need our help.”


A crisis after crisis


Three weeks in since the earthquakes first struck, health workers in north-west Syria are working around the clock to save lives. Abdul Al-Basit Khalil was on duty at the same hospital when a UN interagency delegation visited Harim in the Idleb governorate for the first time on 21 February.


The impacts of the earthquakes — which struck the region on February 6 and February 20 — have compounded humanitarian needs in north-west Syria, a region where millions of people have endured a crisis after crisis for more than a decade.


The health situation is particularly dire, overstretched by COVID-19 and an ongoing cholera crisis, where at least 55 health facilities have been damaged by the earthquakes. Over 110 health facilities today are in need of fuel or medicines. The closure of the Türkiye-Syria borders for the transfer of medical cases further adds to the burden. Prior to the earthquakes, as many as 30 cases crossed in a day. Partners reported that procurement of medical supplies is increasingly challenging and patients with complications, such as cancer and kidney issues, are left with little to no option for treatment.


Active shelling continues to be reported over the last weeks amidst ongoing earthquake relief efforts. Some schools in Idleb have reportedly resumed over the weekend, however, at least 20 schools remain as shelters for people seeking safety.


More than 86,000 displacement movements were recorded in north-west Syria, with departures principally coming from Jandairis, a town where at least 1,000 people have died from the earthquakes.


At least 80 reception centers have now been established, supported by humanitarian partners, to provide temporary accommodation. Um Maryam and her daughters currently live in a temporary shelter center in the town of Qah in northern Idleb. Her husband, once the breadwinner of the household, did not make it out of their collapsed home in Salqin.


“We slept under a tree for three days, hoping to pull my husband out alive,” she recounted. Once it was clear that he could not make it, she fled with her eight-year-old and six-month-old daughters in search of a safe space.


Now living in a tent, Maryam laments: “I do not know what the future holds for us. I only know that it will be different from the life we had prior to the earthquakes.”


Addressing needs beyond the short run


The UN and humanitarian partners are scaling up its cross-border operation which has served as lifeline to millions of people in north-west Syria since 2014. As of 27 February, over 420 trucks loaded with aid provided by six UN agencies have crossed from Türkiye to north-west Syria using three border-crossings: Bab Al-Hawa, Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee.


The UN has so far completed 17 cross-border missions to north-west Syria since the first interagency visit to Idleb on 14 February. The first area-based coordination meeting took place on 23 February in Sarmada with over 20 NGOs to discuss the response in Greater Idleb. Missions involving technical and needs assessment teams have also been conducted.


While immediate needs are critical at this moment, partners are also calling for attention to medium and long-term needs. Many people are at risk of not being able to return to their former homes given that over 10,000 buildings have been partially or fully destroyed in north-west Syria. Progress on dignified shelters, which has been on-going since the launch of its Action Plan in March last year, is critical.


A new REACH joint rapid market assessment also highlights the importance of cash assistance, noting that it can mitigate “logistical challenges associated with in-kind aid.” In its earlier released rapid assessment, multi-purpose cash was identified among the top three needs cited by communities in addition to winterization and shelters. As of 27 February, more than 100,000 people have been supported with cash assistance designed to cover one-month needs.


On 20 February, the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund (SCHF)launched the first phase of its Reserve Allocation, valued at $30 million, to address immediate life-saving needs. Once this allocation is completed, a second phase, valued at least $20 million, will be launched to address life-sustaining needs in the medium term. The SCHF has also reprogrammed ongoing activities, worth $7 million, towards the earthquake response.


2023 Earthquakes: Impact


At least 3 million people affected by the earthquakes are in the Idleb province.


More than 4,500 deaths and more than 8,700 injuries due to the earthquakes have been reported in north-west Syria, as of 26 February, according to the Health cluster.


The districts with the highest number of deaths and injuries as of 25 February remain Harim, followed by Afrin and Jisr-Ash-Shugur.


As of 26 February, more than1,700 buildings have been completely destroyed and more than 8,600 buildings have been partially destroyed. Some 60 per cent of partially destroyed buildings were reported in Harim in the Idleb governorate and Afrin in the Aleppo governorate.


Following the 6.4 and 5.8 earthquakes that struck Türkiye on 20 February, almost 150 additional injuries have been reported in north-west Syria.


Several buildings within the city of Jandairis, the city of Salqin, and the towns of Kherbet Eljoz, Hamziyeh, and Maland collapsed in the aftermath of the 20 February earthquakes.



Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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