Turkish television drive raises $6bn for earthquake relief
A seven-hour television drive broadcast over hundreds of channels and radio shows has raised $6 billion for earthquake relief efforts in Turkey.
The country’s central bank led the efforts, contributing $1.6 billion.
More than half of the pledges and donations came from Turkish banks, including Ziraat Bankasi which pledged $1.54 billion, Vakifbank at $636 million and Halkbank with $371 million, as well as telecoms company Turkcel, Turk Telekom, Turkish Airlines and Borsa Istanbul.
On Thursday, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, in a joint press conference with Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, urged fellow Nato member states to send more aid.
The number of people killed from the 7.8-magnitude quake in Syria and Turkey is now more than 44,000.
The Turkish fundraising effort came as the UN launched a $1 billion appeal for humanitarian aid, designed to last three months and assist 5.2 million people.
“Turkiye is home to the largest number of refugees in the world and has shown enormous generosity to its Syrian neighbours for years,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday.
“Now is the time for the world to support the people of Turkiye — just as they have stood in solidarity with others seeking assistance.”
The UN’s World Health Organisation said areas of northern Syria controlled by rebel militias and extremist groups are “of greatest concern” because of difficulties agreeing on border crossings for aid and the distribution of relief.
Russia and China support the Syrian government’s assertion that aid should be distributed in co-ordination with Damascus.
The countries support a UN resolution allowing aid to be moved from Turkey across a single crossing point, Bab Al Hawa.
The crossing is not under Syrian government control, but Damascus has since authorised the use of several other border routes.
“It’s clear that the zone of greatest concern at the moment is the area of north-western Syria,” Mike Ryan, director of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told a briefing in Geneva.
“The impact of the earthquake in areas of Syria controlled by the government is significant, but the services are there and there is access to those people.
“We have to remember here that in Syria, we’ve had 10 years of war. The health system is amazingly fragile. People have been through hell.”
Damascus opposes aid going to rebel-held Idlib, saying it undermines the country’s sovereignty.
Aid agencies called for more crossings to be opened to improve the flow of relief supplies.
An Al Qaeda-linked militant group that controls Idlib, home to nearly one million displaced people, has also obstructed the movement of some aid from government-held territory.
The situation in the north, where more than four million have been displaced by 12 years of war — and are dependent on aid — became more severe after the February 6 earthquake.
Efforts to distribute supplies are being hampered by the effects of the civil war, with at least two attempts to send aid across the front lines into the north-west being disrupted.
At least one aid convoy has reached the area.
‘Too little, too late’
During a visit to Damascus after last Monday’s quakes, senior WHO officials asked Syrian President Bashar Al Assad to open more crossings on the border with Turkey to ensure aid reaches the area, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday.
Mr Al Assad authorised two more crossings into north-west Syria on Monday, a move Human Rights Watch described as “too little, too late”.
But Mr Ryan described the opening of the crossing points as a sign that “all sides are stepping back and focusing on the needs of the people right now”.
“It is an impossibility at times to provide adequate health care in the context of eternal conflict,” he said.
“We’ve seen a huge ramp-up of aid. We’ve seen the deployment of emergency medical teams.
“We’ve seen all the things that we need to see in a disaster. But this is not sustainable unless we have a more peaceful context in which this can happen more effectively.”