The Syrian government has approved the delivery of humanitarian aid to areas not under its control in the quake-hit rebel-held northwest of the country, a move that could speed up the arrival of help for millions of survivors.
“The Council of Ministers approves … the delivery of humanitarian aid to all parts of the Syrian Arab Republic,” a cabinet statement said on Friday, adding that its distribution should be supervised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent with help from the United Nations.
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The UN has pushed for aid to flow more freely into Syria, especially into the country’s northwest, where it estimated more than 4 million people already required aid before the quake. It wants the aid to move across the front lines within Syria and through border crossings with Turkey.
There have been no aid deliveries to the rebel-held northwest from government-controlled areas in three weeks.
The UN routinely delivers aid to rebel-held areas, either from neighbouring Turkey through the Bab al-Hawa crossing or from government-held areas.
More than 3,200 people have died in Syria from the earthquake with many more injured and hundreds of thousands displaced. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that the death toll in Turkey had risen above 19,000.
Dozens of planeloads of aid have arrived in areas held by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government since Monday, but little has reached the northwest, leading many residents to say they feel forgotten.
Only two aid convoys have reached the region this week from Turkey, where authorities are engaged in an even bigger quake relief operation of their own.
State media reported that the government has declared the areas worst affected by Monday’s deadly earthquakes – Latakia, Hama, Aleppo and Idlib – as disaster zones and would set up a fund for their reconstruction.
UN chief Antonio Guterres urged the Security Council on Thursday to authorise the opening of additional crossings on the Turkey-Syria border for the delivery of UN aid to quake victims in rebel-held areas.