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WHO chief 'heartbroken' by visit to quake-hit Syria, says more funds needed

WHO chief 'heartbroken' by visit to quake-hit Syria, says more funds needed

Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus arrives at a hospital, in the aftermath of the deadly earthquake, in Bab al-Hawa crossing at the Syrian-Turkish border, in Idlib governorate, on Mar 1, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi)

BAB AL-HAWA, Syria: Available funding and new border crossings were still not enough to help quake-hit citizens in Syria's battered northwest, the head of the WHO said on Wednesday (Mar 1), adding he was "disturbed and heartbroken" by a visit to the rebel-held region.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking to reporters after visiting a hospital in the area, where more than 4,000 people have died as a result of last month's devastating earthquake.

Following the quake, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad allowed the opening of two more crossings with Türkiye, bringing the total to three, to allow aid into the region held by his armed opponents.

However, more access - and funding - were still needed, Ghebreyesus said.

"I don't think the existing, the three, will be enough. Any available access should be used," he told reporters in Syria.

He said he did not discuss with local authorities the possibility of aid coming in across front lines from government-held zones. Other UN agencies and international aid groups have criticised hardline rebels for rejecting such deliveries.

The UN had already struggled to gather funding to address Syria's worsening humanitarian situation before the earthquake hit, and had secured just half of its 2022 appeal.

It said it would need nearly US$400 million over three months to respond to those affected by the quake in Syria alone.

The opposition-controlled zone in the northwest is home to some 4 million people, many of them displaced by conflict in other parts of their homeland.

Hospitals there are in particularly dire conditions, having been hit by air strikes over the years and facing chronic shortages of equipment.

The UN said Syria's needs are now at its highest since the start of the conflict nearly 12 years ago.

Source: Reuters/ec


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