Syrian refugee calls for border to open to help earthquake victims

A Syrian refugee living in Sheffield is campaigning for the border between Syria and Turkey to open to help victims of one of the worst earthquakes to hit the region in decades.

Om Saleh, 27, originally from Idlib, Syria, joined her family and friends to campaign on the street at Sheffield City Centre last Sunday.

They took their national flags, banners, and handmade posters calling for the opening of the border to allow much-needed aid convoys through. 

Ms. Saleh said: “All we want at the moment is to save as many friends as we can. We want the aid to go through the border. People need food and a tent to stay.

“I am here safe in Sheffield, but my family and friends are still back home. I want them to survive. I am praying for them every single minute.”

The border has been closed since Russia vetoed the extension of the resolution in the UN Security Council on 8th July 2022. The aid from the international community and the UN cannot go through due to the closure of the border.

Earlier this month the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad agreed to open two border crossings but critics say not enough aid is arriving in the affected area.

The province of Idlib, located in the north-west of Syria, bordering Turkey, was one of the areas that experienced the worst hit of the earthquake. What is more, it is one of the last rebel-held exclaves in this country. Millions of people have to seek refuge in this area that remains out of the control of the government after fighting over a decade.

Ms. Saleh held the poster she made herself, writing “the border crossing to Northern Syria are BLOCKED for aid, yet open for our DEAD”. 

The earthquakes have destroyed people’s lives and turned homes into tombs. People are in urgent need of basic living needs and shelter. The weather has been unpleasant with severe winter storms sweeping through.

In addition, the lack of medical supplies has been a severe issue. The schools had been turned into temporary hospitals where only a few doctors busy looking after dying patients. 

Among those patients, over hundreds of them were children who lost their family after the earthquake, joined with the other hundreds orphaned from the war. 

According to the UN, as of February 2022, 14.6 million people inside Syria were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including about 5 million classified as being in extreme or catastrophic need. More than 12 million people are struggling to find enough food each day.

Written by Rose Xu

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