More than 20,000 individuals died in the earthquake that affected Turkey and Syria on Monday.
At least 17,134 people died in Turkey, according to AFAD. In Syria, the state media indicated that the death toll reached 1,347 individuals. These numbers are expected to rise.
Since the earthquake, which had a magnitude of 7.8, Turkey received an outflow of aid and support from several countries. Around 70 countries and 14 global entities presented support to Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
Syria, however, is facing concerns of not receiving as much aid.
Why is it hard for Syria to receive aid?
The country is mainly divided into three main parts: Two parts are controlled by President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition party that is supported by the US and Turkey. Idlib, is controlled by a Sunni Islamist party, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
The Syrian regime has been sanctioned by Europe and America due to its cruel suppression of the 2011 uprising which caused the death of hundreds of thousands of its citizens. Russia and Iran, international pariahs, form a close ally with the Syrian government.
Airplanes are refraining from landing at Syrian lands due to the sanctions being imposed on the regime. This challenges the countries who are ready to send help but cannot due to airplanes refusing to fly to the country.
Many organizations are avoiding handing aid directly to the government due to fears of the government profiting from aid and not delivering it to those who are affected.
Some countries successfully sent aid to airports that are controlled by the authorities. However, international support towards Syria is still vague as some countries have proposed sending aid but it is ambiguous whether aid would be received by the regime.
The conflict between the opposition party and the Assad regime in northwest Syria, the most impacted district by the quake, is likely to challenge international support from reaching the area.
Bab al-Hawa forms the only passageway that allows help and aid to reach Syria from Turkey.
The UN Security Council undertake a vote every six months in deciding aid transport to the area. Concerns have risen that Russia will veto the only route of aid delivery.
In 2020, Russia pressured to close all crossings of humanitarian aid except Bab al-Hawa as it considered the aid to be violating the supremacy of the Syrian regime.
Now, Bab al-Hawa is severely damaged as the routes have been affected severely by the quake.
Humanitarian aid passing through the crossing is very restricted as it has to be approved by the Turkish government first.
Mark Lowcock, previous head of UN humanitarian affairs, said: “But Turkey is now completely overwhelmed with dealing and helping their own people that we cannot realistically expect to prioritize focusing on facilitating aid to the Syrians.”
The Syrian government also places constraints in delivering aid to areas controlled by the opposition.
Aid must pass through the capital
The government is pressuring to move all aid to the capital Damascus, even support that are aimed at areas outside of the regime’s domination.
Bassam al-Sabbagh, Syria’s UN delegate, said in New York on Monday: “We are ready to work with all who want to provide Syria, from inside Syria, so access from inside Syria is there. Anyone who’d like to help Syria they can coordinate with the government and we will be ready to do so.”
This raised concerns among activists who fear that humanitarian aid will not reach areas that are controlled by the opposition due to obstacles imposed by the government.
The severity of the situation
The northwest part of Syria is controlled by the opposition and includes 4.5 million individuals. Around 30% of them are displaced from other parts and the place was already facing a crisis.
Prior to the quake, the area was already suffering from other ramifications. “You are compounding an already extremely difficult situation where agencies were already up to their eyes trying to prevent famine, and child disease,” said Mark Lowcock. He also mentioned that the Syrian regime already has a “track record of resisting and trying to prevent people from going through.”
The district has been facing several challenges as it was being bombarded regularly. Due to lack of clean water, Cholera has brushed the area. The earthquake then destroyed internet, electricity and shelters.
No inclination to ease sanctions
The Syrian regime has been calling to end the sanctions being imposed on it.
Western authorities indicated that sanctions are being held on the Syrian government to reach a political agreement. America said that those sanctions do not aim at humanitarian support.
The US is holding its position on its sanctions against the Syrian authorities. It said that it will supply aid to the affected population in the areas dominated by Assad via NGOs and organizations on the field rather than handing it to the regime directly.
Ned Price, the US State Department spokesperson, said: “It would be quite ironic, if not even counterproductive, for us to reach out to a government that has brutalized its people over the course of a dozen years now – gassing them, slaughtering them, being responsible for much of the suffering that they have endured.”
However, countries like Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Egypt have been sending aid to the Syrian regime, according to Syrian State media. The countries are aligned with the opposition but have been communicating with Assad in recent times.
Faisal Mekdad, Syrian Foreign Minister, mentioned that the regime will not prevent aid from reaching all areas as long as terrorist parties will not have access to it.