The international community is mobilizing seven billion euros for the victims of the earthquake disaster in Turkey and Syria. Together, expectations have been exceeded, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday after a donor conference in Brussels. "When tragedy strikes, there is only one answer and that is solidarity."
Germany alone announced that it would more than double the earthquake aid it had already provided for both countries to around 240 million euros. The greater part of this will go to Turkey, “because access and needs are much clearer and much simpler there than in north-western Syria,” said the State Secretary in the Federal Foreign Office, Tobias Lindner, of the German Press Agency.
According to von der Leyens, the EU is supporting the reconstruction of Turkey with one billion euros from its budget. A further 108 million euros should be made available for humanitarian and initial reconstruction aid in the civil war country Syria. According to von der Leyen, the EU and its member states committed a total of 3.3 billion euros. The rest comes from the rest of the international community.
On February 6, two strong earthquakes shook southeast Turkey and northern Syria. In all, nearly 57,000 people lost their lives and millions were left homeless. Von der Leyen therefore invited to the donor conference together with the Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. Immediately after the tremors, the EU and its member states sent rescue workers, search dogs and equipment to the earthquake areas and pledged financial aid. The latter are partly included in the total amount now mentioned. This consists of both grants and loans.
Now it's about reconstruction
"We must maintain our support and help the survivors not only survive, but also to rebuild their lives," von der Leyen said. She stressed that homes, schools and hospitals must be rebuilt to the highest earthquake-proof standards. The fact that this was not the case before the devastating tremors is considered by many people in Turkey to be one of the reasons for the scale of the catastrophe. In addition, the water supply, the sewage systems and other important infrastructure would have to be repaired, said von der Leyen. Six weeks after the catastrophe, these are still fallow in many places.
Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Program (UNDP), made it clear how dramatic the situation is. It's about giving people hope and perspective, Steiner told dpa. Many are homeless or have fled. They would have to be convinced that they could rebuild a livelihood in the affected regions.
In Turkey alone, the official death toll has risen to more than 50,000, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The material damage amounts to around 104 billion dollars, said Erdogan, who was connected via video. Almost 300,000 buildings were severely damaged. According to government information, 3.7 million people have been evacuated from the region, and almost two million people are living in tents. At the same time, the country is preparing for parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14. The government has been heavily criticized for its crisis management.
Syria has to wait longer for help
In Syria, the aid after the earthquake is arriving much more slowly than in Turkey. After twelve years of civil war, the country is fragmented and largely destroyed. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, around 6,800 people died in the tremors in the country.
Even before the disaster, around 70 percent of the population needed humanitarian aid this year. According to the UN, more than half a million people have become homeless. Many of them live in overcrowded collective accommodation with poor hygiene - in addition to the already large number of displaced people.
Because Bashar al-Assad's government is brutally cracking down on its own people, the EU does not want to pay for the country's reconstruction. That's why she limits her help to humanitarian aid and the most necessary reconstruction - such as repairing water pipes. Further aid for the country is to be collected at a donors' conference in June.
However, the Syrian government criticized Monday's donor conference and accused the organizers of "illegal, inhuman and immoral coercive measures" against Syria, alluding to existing sanctions.