Syria could be left behind as aid is rushed into Turkey

The Hilton Prize for Humanitarian Action: Gives this humanitarian group more power to halt human suffering from the crisis across the globe, says Norwegian Refugee Council

While speaking calmly, Egeland becomes increasingly animated when discussing the record number of people displaced because of crises across the globe.

This year alone, the group that he heads, the Norwegian Refugee Council, helped those affected by the war in Ukraine, the Afghanistan earthquake in June and the ongoing devastating drought in Somalia.

The council was awarded the largest annual humanitarian award for a nonprofit by 2.5 million dollars in recognition of their efforts.

This award could not have come at more important time for us because we are challenged like never before. We have become a target for authoritarian regimes who don’t like the truth to be told because of our advocacy for targeted civilians. With the recognition and backing of the Hilton Prize we can do that with more authority and greater resources. The recognition and prestige are equally important, even though it’s a considerable sum of money. I think this is a prize for humanitarian work.


The Most Missed Wars in the World and Why We Care: A Dialogue with Zahra, Secretary General of the UNMICHA Convention on Human Rights and Human Rights

The secretary general of the council is a former Norwegian foreign minister who worked at Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. Upon returning from a trip to Somalia in June, he spoke with NPR about overlooked crises, equal protection for all refugees and reasons to hope.

Organizations on the ground need help raising awareness, funds and basic items. But the issue doesn’t stop with short-term relief efforts, Zahra says, arguing that activists must pressure the US and other countries to “activate disaster mechanisms and push for access to hard-to-reach communities.”

We issue an annual report measuring the number of people in greatest need versus the corresponding international media coverage, money directed toward the crises and diplomatic efforts to halt hostilities. Last year the top 10 of the most neglected conflicts and displacement crises in the world were in Africa. More than 25 million people are in need of assistance and the Democratic Republic ofCongo is not receiving much attention. The same is true for Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Chad and Somalia.

The media is giving much attention to Ukrainian refugees. The Russian invasion started in February. What has changed for people who are from other countries?

The NRC has been in Ukraine since the 2014 Donbas conflict, but now the situation is much worse, with trench warfare and the destruction of entire cities engulfing millions of civilians. Some areas have become more stable where we can help the internally displaced and Ukrainians are now returning after fleeing. Some people from the east and south of the country continue to be driven out. I’m afraid for the winter. We are preparing a winterization program for millions of people who will be freezing in the coming weeks.

It’s a good thing that we want to help our neighbor who looks like us, has the same religion and can easily integrate in our societies but we should give protection according to need. In Europe, people from the Middle East and Afghanistan are welcomed while Ukrainians are not. In the U.S., where women and children fleeing horrifying violence in central America are not always well received, it’s the same. This is a battle of values, and we must stand squarely on the side of those who need protection.

We live and breathe by the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. This means we teach our colleagues not to take sides and not to get close to a government which is a party to the conflict. We still need to have the protection of those parties. We always try to work on all sides – it pains me that we’re not able to work in the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.

It is now over a year since the West left Afghanistan, leaving behind 40 million mainly women and children, and they need our solidarity now more than ever. There must be engagement between the de facto authorities and the donor countries on issues such as girls’ education and minority protection. The very wrong response is to impose sanctions that do not take away food from Taliban soldiers but do make women and children starve.

Yes, I’m afraid of that. One hundred million people have now for the first time in recorded history been displaced by war and violence. It was 40 million in 2011. There has never been in modern times as many children going to bed hungry as there are this year. Some countries struggle with high energy prices and nationalistic tendencies at home, but they are much worse in the areas where we operate.

It’s truly dramatic. I saw mothers and fathers walking for hundreds of kilometers to seek water and food. Better use of existing resources is needed. The BricS was formed to balance short- and long-term humanitarian needs with community readiness in the war-torn country of Somalia. Dams were being built and there were bore holes with solar-powered pumps so people could feed themselves.

Join and support the international NGOs. Write to politicians because we want to live in accordance with the rules of compassion and solidarity. To help the migrants and refugees integrate into the community, befriend them.

It is a time of horrible contrasts. There has never been so many displaced by conflict and violence, and so many who can’t feed themselves. Climate change, COVID and conflict have merged to create a lethal cocktail. But the good news is that never have there been more effective national and international humanitarian and development organizations, better technological advances and greater resources. Never have there been as many billionaires, so there should be a possibility for us to elevate the bottom two billion people. The very top people have the resources we need to reach people in need.

I come back an optimist whenever I return from visiting colleagues working in difficult and dangerous circumstances. We have helped a million children go to school and when I ask them what they want to be when they are older, they all want to be doctors, engineers, farmers and builders.

The Syrian Crisis in Light of the February 8, 2009 Earthquake and the UN-Continuum Damned Crossing with the Middle East

The Syrian crisis has become an obscure topic when discussing the complexity of the Middle East, according to Alsamman.

Some of the areas of Syria most impacted by the earthquake are controlled by the regime, others by Turkish-backed and US-backed opposition forces, Kurdish rebels and Sunni Islamist fighters. The HTS organization, which is an armed Sunni Islamist group, is in control of the last opposition stronghold in Syria.

More than 30,000 people have died in Turkey and Syria since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the region in February. Many survivors are still being pulled alive from the rubble, but the chances of finding more survivors diminish as the temperature plummets.

Already, UN aid to the region has been disrupted due to damage inflicted on roads by the earthquake, the UN has said. The damaged Bab al-Hawa crossing is the only humanitarian aid corridor between Turkey and Syria.

“To many in the international community, Syria is just another Arab country mired in war, poverty, and extremism,” he added. “We’re tired of the empty statements of solidarity and pointless global summits that are supposedly aimed at solving our crisis. We need action.

The Syrian regime is shunned by most Western countries. But leader Bashar al-Assad has begun forging ties with former enemies as regional states welcome him back into the fold. Turkey’s President said last month that he might meet with Assad for peace talks, just a year after the United Arab Emirates welcomed him.

In northwest Syria, we were left with limited equipment and manpower due to the earthquake, even though the UN Undersecretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief has hailed search and rescue efforts as unparalleled in history. The White Helmets didn’t get any support from the United Nations during the most critical times of the rescue, and even now we don’t know if we will get help in the future.

The UN and other aid groups have only been able to send two convoys so far since Monday, leaving rebel held areas reliant on them.

Aid convoys are allowed only at Bab al-Hawa. But the roads between the U.N. supply hub in Turkey and this border point were damaged in the earthquake, so for several days other, open, border crossings with Syria remained unused and no aid came.

The UN says that activists and observers fear that the regime could cause delays in aid for thousands of earthquake victims in rebel-held areas, most of them women and children.

“We are exploring all avenues to reach people in need and conducting assessments on feasibility,” Madevi Sun-Suon, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), told CNN on Tuesday. We do have aid, but the road issue is a challenge right now.

The Syrians have used the opportunity to call for sanctions to be lifted. The UN envoy said Tuesday that planes were refused to land at Syrian airports because of American and European sanctions. “So even those countries who want to send humanitarian assistance, they cannot use the airplane cargo because of the sanctions,” he said in New York.

In November, a UN-appointed human rights expert called for the immediate lifting of unilateral sanctions against Syria, saying they are exacerbating the destruction and trauma suffered by ordinary citizens there.

“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,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told a media briefing on Monday.

“It’s a very convenient time for the regime to be making that argument because if sanctions were dropped, the ramifications of the much broader geopolitical situation would be game changing,” said Lister.

Turkey’s refusal to join NATO after the IRNA attacks in Isfahan and Egypt’s withdrawal from a deep underground air force base

Why it matters: The announcement comes less than 10 days after a drone attack on a military plant in Iran’s central city of Isfahan that US media outlets attributed to Israel . IRNA said the new underground base was one of the country’s most important air force bases, built deep underground, housing fighters equipped with long-range cruise missiles.

As soon as Turkey decided to join NATO, the Swedish Prime Minister said he was ready to restart talks about Sweden joining the alliance, according to the report.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, NATO membership was sought by both Finn and Sweden, but Turkey has yet to approve their applications. Despite the two Nordic neighbors applying to join at the same time, Turkey does not support Sweden’s application.

The three nations reached an agreement a year ago on how to move forward, but Ankara stopped talks last month due to protests in Sweden where the far-right burned a Quran. The elections in Turkey will take place in May.

The state news agency of kingdom reported that the foreign minister met his counterpart in Saudi Arabia to discuss the issues between the two countries.

After three years of political and economic boycotts against Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt came to an end on January 31, 2021. Since then, there has been no bilateral discussions with Manama to resolve their differences. All but Bahrain restored travel and trade links in 2021.


The Twitter Account that Tweets from the Quran: A U.N. High-frequency Monitor of Syrian Civil Society and Civil Liberation Laws

AlMosahf (The Quran), an account that tweeted snippets from the Islamic holy book, had more than 13 million followers before Twitter took action against it.

One user addressed Musk, saying: “I don’t think it violated the Twitter rules because its tweets are quoted from the Holy Quran. We demand the lifting of the suspension of this account.”

Some users were not upset with the suspension. Some decried the account’s use of incomplete Quranic verses that they said are taken out of context and thus change the meaning of the text.

There are multiple English, German, French and Spanish sister accounts of the account owner. Another sister account that shows Quranic videos has been campaigning for the original account to be unblocked.

A United Nations aid convoy crossed from Turkey into northwest Syria Thursday for the first time since Monday’s earthquake, amid the struggle to get international help into a region beset by years of conflict and an acute humanitarian crisis.

Half of northwestern Syria’s 4.6 million population has been forced out of their homes by the conflict, with 1.7 million now living in tents and refugee camps in the region, according to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF. Last year, the agency reported 3.3 million Syrians in the area were food insecure.

During the three day period that aid was not delivered, there were just 300 bodies at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing to rebel-held northern Syria.

The UN said the roads to the crossing were blocked after the earthquake but as of Wednesday they were clear.

The earthquake in the US is having an emotional impact on Syrians who feel helpless because of the 12 years of war.

The need for more border crossings in Idlib, Syria: Amen. A. Sakhour, 27, a former merchant and a nurse

Abu Muhammad Sakhour, a former merchant, is volunteering as a nurse in the rebel-held city of Idlib, dressing wounds for quake victims and checking up on the injured who have been discharged from crowded hospitals.

Protesters at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing are asking why bodies are being allowed through. The bodies belong to Syrian refugees who sought safety in Turkey and are now being sent back to be buried on home soil.

Muhammad Munther Atqi is living out of his car in Gaziantep, Turkey, while he is in close contact with his colleagues in Syria. He said hospitals there have been overwhelmed with bodies, and staff are waiting for families to come and identify them, so they can be taken away.

Time and again Russia has used its veto at the Security Council to shut border crossings, reducing the routes for delivery of cross-border aid via Turkey to a single entry. Opening additional crossings on a temporary basis is not enough — more cross-border routes were already sorely needed.

“We don’t need the politics. We don’t need the game playing that’s going on. What we do need is for the international community to focus on the border crossing staying open,” Barnes added. We are heading into the humanitarian phase because we are past the first phase of finding people. We need to provide people with basic necessities.

Miracles of rescue and humanitarian assistance in Syria after the quake: The impact of the earthquake on human rights and human rights in the region

Local authorities say 11,000 families in the rebel-held part of Syria are now homeless after the quake. The United Nations said up to 2,000 deaths have been reported.

An aid worker distributing supplies across cities in northern Syria told CNN on Thursday that homeless people have been sleeping in their cars amid a “very, very difficult,” situation.

“Those who are still alive under the rubble might die from the cold weather,”  Dr. Mostafa Edo, the Country Director for the US-based NGO MedGlobal said.

“He is using the disaster as a ticket to remove sanctions,” said Omar Abu Layla, executive director of Deir Ezzor 24, a research organization that delivers news from Syria’s Deir al-Zour province. If we want to help the people in Syria, we can. It’s critical that time is there. We are playing with life and death.”

“We have humanitarian partners on the ground who can provide the type of assistance in the aftermath of these tragic earthquakes. This is a regime… that has never shown any inclination to put the welfare, the wellbeing, the interests of its people first.”

Syrians don’t know where their next meal will come from. When we say meal, it’s not about vegetables, not about meat… Moutawz Adham, country director for Syria for Oxfam, said it was about simple bread.

A week after the earthquake, Al-Dahhan still gets voice messages from people saying traumatizing things from the ground.

Rescue efforts continue as untold others remain trapped under the rubble. A bullhorn for what’s at stake is used to describe the stories of miracle rescues, such as that of a baby girl born under the rubble.

A resident of the opposition-controlled area, Karam Kellieh, is a photographer who has been known to document these rescues in the past. More than 4 million people have been displaced by the Syrian civil war. Before the earthquake the area had been devastated by bombs. Politics and the Syrian government hampered aid.

He said that humanitarian aid and international aid hadn’t appeared 72 hours after the disaster, while the little help is being trickled into the region by individual groups.

“Rescue efforts are being carried out by poorly equipped civil defense groups and civilians are trying to help,” Kelliah said. “Everyone’s waiting for rescue and assistance to help them process what’s happened in this catastrophe.”

Only five percent of reported sites in north-west Syria have been searched and saved, according to a report by the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

People are digging with their own hands in many areas, but the situation is particularly dire in northwestern Syria, where there is little heavy machinery to lift rubble. Hospitals have had fuel shortages because of power outages.

The scale of thechallenge is amplified by the fact that areas in Turkey and Syria are facing colder than normal temperatures. For example, the Syrian city of Aleppo is forecast to have lows of -3°C to -2°C (27°F to 28°F) through this weekend, whereas February low are normally 2.5°C (36°F).

Assad told reporters that western countries have no respect for the human condition, while standing near a destroyed building. This comment is in line with statements heard from government officials and Syria’s state-run media, who have pinned the lack of humanitarian aid and hindered rescue equipment on US and EU sanctions.

The president and his wife Asma visited survivors of the earthquake at a hospital in northern Syria, according to pictures on the state news agency’s website.

A Syrian refugee’s camp in the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Sawran, northwest of Syria, as seen by the National Public Radio Radio Research Mission

The USTreasury issued a “General License” for 180 days which allowed all earthquake relief transactions, even those that are forbidden by sanctions regulations. The measure was called a means to give a false impression of humanity by the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

JINDERIS, Syria — Mohammed Juma sleeps on the heap of rubble that crushed his family as he survived. In the freezing nights, the 20-year-old and others in this town — still dazed and in shock — burn possessions found in the debris for heat.

By contrast, across the border in the northwest of Syria, residents of the town of Jinderis heard the screams of those trapped under the rubble but, without the right machinery and equipment, were powerless to save them.

On a rare visit to the rebel-held enclave of a country that has been broken and isolated for more than a decade, NPR saw no international crews of rescuers, no trucks loaded with machinery or medical aid, or streams of ambulances to save the wounded. The border crossing into Syria was empty.

Mohammed Juma said his wife, Alia, and his two children — 20-month old Ali and 6-month old Hussein — were alive after their home collapsed on top of them. The effort was futile, as Juma and his neighbors pulled at the shattered concrete for hours.

Now the Syrian civil defense teams are using the few excavators they do have to recover the dead. On Friday morning in Jinderis, at least 850 bodies had been pulled from the rubble. Tabak was laying his son in his bed while he slept when a falling object killed him. Tabakh’s wife died in the bed beside him. He said that few friends were able to come to the burial because they were too busy burying their own loved ones.

After years of war, they’ve been left with nothing. Thousands of people are forced to live in makeshift tents in the mud-covered olive groves because there aren’t a lot of basic services.

Less than one hour’s drive from one of the open border crossings, the town of Sawran now has no running water. Nine people, including five children, died in the destroyed home of theTurki family on the main street. A family of seven were killed across the road. The neighbors said they fled their home in Khan Sheikhoon after the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin to kill 89 people.

The voice messages he’s received chronicling their pain make it impossible to sleep, he says. His guilt became strong because of their cries. He worries that each moment he rests, thousands back home in Syria are still buried alive under rubble.

“It’s destroying me,” Al-Dahhan, 31, told CNN. “When it happened, I was receiving constant voice messages, jumping from number to number on WhatsApp, each one is someone crying, telling me they are seeing people dying around them. I can’t stop hearing them.”

Al-Dahhan, a Syrian-American aid worker for Mercy-USA, a Michigan-based non-profit working in communities across the globe, has spent the past week traveling around the United States to raise money for earthquake relief. He says he has raised $100,000 by his efforts at schools, places of worship and on social media.

Meanwhile, on the ground, his colleagues who survived have been in a race against time, using the funds raised by workers like Al-Dahhan to help rescue those still trapped under the rubble and deliver relief to shell-shocked survivors.

The exhaustion can be heard in Al-Dahhan’s voice, he hasn’t slept for more than 10 minutes at a time since the earthquake.

“At least I get a little bit of relief, knowing what I’m doing matters, because the more I can fundraise here, the more it helps out there,” he said. “But I am in constant stress that I’m not doing enough and I need to keep going. I feel guilty when I sleep. I need to be awake every second. I need to be working. I want to get more updates. My mind and soul are there, I feel like I am operating here.

The tragedy of a Syrian family lost in an earthquake and its impact on mental-health care: Syria’s biggest humanitarian crisis since the 2011 September 11 eruption

Another story is about a family that lost two sisters in the earthquake, leaving their children orphaned. Al-Dahhan says that their brother died from a heart attack after learning of his sisters deaths.

Alsamman told CNN he thought it was an Israeli air strike since we have had a few of them there over the past few years. I was sad when I saw the reports of the massive earthquake that had occurred in the middle of the night.

He had no way of knowing if his friends or family were still alive, as he watched images of death and destruction pour into his phone.

It felt like no one was available for them, no aid was arriving, and the only organizations that could provide aid were the ones already there.

As the clock ticked, the opportunity to rescue survivors decreased, igniting panicked efforts from Syrians in the US like Alsamman and Al-Dahhan to raise as much money as possible for organizations on the ground.

Nour Al Ghraowi, who immigrated to New York City from Damascus, Syria, following the civil war in Syria that started in 2011, is also helping through her work as a communications coordinator with Karam Foundation.

“Even though on a bigger scale it seems that the world has been quiet and no one has been talking about them, there are organizations and people who are still fighting for them, who never stopped for one moment fighting for them,” Al Ghraowi said.

The majority of the casualties took place in the northwest part of the country, a region already trying to rebuild after being hit by aerial bombardment during the country’s civil war.

Providing mental-health care for Syrians is a priority according to Zahra, who stressed the need for immediate needs and non-food items.

One of the biggest issues contributing to these mental health issues experienced by Syrians in the country and in the US, she says, is the feeling of being abandoned and forgotten.

She said that it is natural for people to ask themselves if they should matter or not. Will the picture be undignified but not humanized?


AFAD and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society: A team to provide mental-health support to earthquake victims in Syria, and how much help does it take to help them?

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said Sunday that it was the first group to send a team to provide mental-health support to earthquake victims in Syria. The team of Palestinians, along with local helpers, is providing mental health services to about 300 children and their families in shelters and hospitals, who suffered severe trauma as a result of the earthquake.

Photos and videos of the destruction of buildings caused by an earthquake and the aftermath of airstrikes have triggered a psychological stress for some, including Al-Dahhan.

The war messed me up so I built walls a long time ago. Al-Dahhan wanted to get hurt like that again. I feel the walls crumbling from this earthquake. I am remembering things I don’t want to remember, and I can’t think of anything else.

Zahra and Alsamman both said they were struggling with survivor’s guilt because they felt that no matter how much they helped it wouldn’t be enough.

“I can certainly say, without a doubt, as Syrians, we don’t have time to almost mourn or process our grief because we’re trying to use energy, time, resources, all hours of the day, to keep Syria in the news, keep Syria in conversation,” Zahra said.

“We don’t have time to heal those wounds, we are literally shouting from the rooftops, please don’t get distracted, please share, please donate, please help.”

Every hour brings new information of death, children who are orphans, families still buried under the rubble and survivors that are holding onto diminishing hopes.

Across the street, workers searched for bodies in the rubble, their hopes of finding survivors dimming so long after the building fell. Ms. Omac said that she had a niece and nephew who were under the debris. She was waiting for the rescuers to pull their relatives out, alive or dead.

Turkey’s national emergency management agency, AFAD, has distributed a huge quantity of tents — with the help of more than 238,000 relief workers — but the sheer scale of the disaster has meant many still lack shelter.

A group of people, numbering about 12 or more, built a shelter out of cardboard and tarp over a truck with blankets and thin mattresses inside.

The Turkish Red Crescent, a humanitarian group, said it was speeding up the production of tents to house people after Turkish news media reported a shortage of temporary housing and poor sanitary conditions for the homeless.

The United Nations Aid Chief: The Rise and Fall of a Child-Mildred Earthquake: Report of the White Helmets in Syria

The rescue phase of the response was coming to a close, according to Martin Griffiths, the United Nations aid chief.

Editor’s Note: Raed Al Saleh is head of The White Helmets, a group of nearly 3,000 volunteers working to save lives and strengthen communities in Syria. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. CNN has opinions on it.

Our team of White Helmets volunteer rescue workers in northwest Syria have been working around the clock night and day, pulling survivors from the rubble and searching for signs of life — with virtually no help from the outside world.

There are no other organizations in this area with the equipment and training to do heavy search and rescue. I am proud of the Volunteers who have been doing the impossible.

The UN was asking for the Security Council to authorize aid access through two additional border crossings, a misguided approach that wasted time, said Griffiths over the weekend. Legal analysts and scholars have argued against it, and humanitarian organizations say the need is too high for aid entry to be politicized.

The United Nations needs to do better. Something is clearly broken if the very system that was set up to protect and save human lives during an emergency leaves children to die under the rubble as precious minutes and hours pass.

The local affected communities lent their cars and heavy vehicles to the response, helping to dig and donate fuel to help keep themselves warm as we searched through the rubble.

Rescue teams in southern Turkey say they are still hearing voices from under the rubble more than a week after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake, offering a glimmer of hope of finding more survivors.

Live images broadcast on CNN affiliate CNN Turk showed rescuers working in two areas of the Kahramanmaras region, where they were trying to save three sisters believed to be buried under the debris.

In the same region, rescuers pulled an 18-year-old boy and a man alive from the rubble on Tuesday – a day after they saved a 10-year-old girl believed to have been buried for around 185 hours.

Over 12,000 people have been confirmed dead and survival stories are hard to come by, almost two weeks after the earthquake.

Turkish Foreign Minister Fuat Oktay denounces food shortages in the search for rebel-controlled areas of the northern Helmets group

The White Helmets group declared a 7 day mourning period on Monday in rebel-controlled areas of the north of the country after announcing their end to their search and rescue operation.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay on Tuesday denied reports of food and aid shortages. There were “no problems with feeding the public” and “millions of blankets are being sent to all areas,” he said on live television.

Turkey has 9,200 foreign personnel taking part in its search and rescue operations, with 100 countries offering help so far, according to the Foreign Ministry.

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