First UN team since earthquake crosses into rebel-held Syria, as anger simmers over slow response

An aerial view shows collapsed buildings following last week's earthquake in Syria's rebel-held village of Atarib.
An aerial view shows collapsed buildings following last week's earthquake in Syria's rebel-held village of Atarib. Copyright AAREF WATAD/AFP
By Euronews with AFP, AP
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The UN’s first delegation has crossed into rebel-held northwestern Syria, as activists and emergency teams have decried its slow response.

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The first UN delegation to visit rebel-held northwestern Syria since last week's earthquake crossed over from Turkey Tuesday, as anger simmers at the world body's slow response.

"A multi-agency mission has gone this morning from the Turkey side across the border crossing. It's largely an assessment mission," the World Food Programme's Syria director, Kenn Crossley, said in Geneva.

The delegation comprised deputy regional humanitarian coordinator David Carden and Sanjana Quazi, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Turkey.

Activists and emergency teams in the northwest have decried the UN's slow response to the quake in rebel-held areas, arguing more aid was delivered to government-controlled airports.

"I don't want to sit here and give excuses, but I wanted to share that we are all collectively in the same place," Quazi told reporters in the rebel-held town of Sarmada, close to the border.

"I think we also know that it is not enough," she said, adding that the UN was doing its best to provide aid to the northwest.

They visited a WFP centre in Sarmada and held a 40-minute meeting with officials at the Bab al-Hawa crossing -- the only transit point on the Turkish border for UN aid deliveries to rebel-held areas.

On a visit to the Turkish side of the crossing on Sunday, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths admitted that the world body had "so far failed the people in northwest Syria".

€396 million appeal to help survivors in Syria

On Tuesday, the UN also announced a €396 million appeal to help survivors of the earthquake in Syria.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the devastation from the magnitude 7.8 earthquake “is one of the worst in recent memory,” and “we all know that lifesaving aid has not been getting in at the speed and scale needed.”

He added the aid will provide “desperately needed, life-saving relief for nearly 5 million Syrians — including shelter, health care, food and protection” for three months.

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