The United Nations launched an appeal for $1 billion Thursday to help Turkey’s victims of the catastrophic earthquake that killed thousands of people and left millions more in desperate need of aid, Agence France-Presse reported.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that the funds would provide humanitarian relief for three months to 5.2 million people.
The money would “allow aid organizations to rapidly scale up vital support,” including in the areas of food security, protection, education, water and shelter, he added.
“The needs are enormous, people are suffering and there’s no time to lose,” Guterres implored.
“I urge the international community to step up and fully fund this critical effort in response to one of the biggest natural disasters of our times.”
The 7.8-magnitude tremor on February 6 has killed more than 35,000 people in southeast Turkey, with several thousand more losing their lives across the border in Syria.
More than nine million people in Turkey have been directly impacted by the disaster, according to Ankara.
Many of them are Syrian refugees. According to UN figures, 1.74 million Syrians are living under temporary refugee protection status in the 11 provinces in Turkey impacted by the quake.
Turkey is “home to the largest number of refugees in the world and has shown enormous generosity to its Syrian neighbors for years,” Guterres said in his statement.
“Now is the time for the world to support the people of Turkey — just as they have stood in solidarity with others seeking assistance.”
Turkey’s people have experienced “unspeakable heartache,” the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said in a separate statement announcing the flash appeal.
“We must stand with them in their darkest hour and ensure they receive the support they need,” added Griffiths, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
OCHA said in its statement that hundreds of thousands of people, including small children and elderly people, are suffering in freezing temperatures without access to shelter, food, water, heaters and medical care.
It added that some 47,000 buildings have been destroyed or damaged across Turkey, with thousands of people having sought refuge in temporary shelters.
The United Nations is delivering hot meals, food, tents, warm winter clothing, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets and medical supplies to affected areas, OCHA said.
On Tuesday, the global body launched a $397 million appeal to help quake victims in Syria.
The UN earlier provided $50 million towards relief efforts through its central emergency response fund.
For its part, global steel manufacturing giant ArcelorMittal, citing the “heart-breaking” devastation in Turkey and Syria, announced Thursday it has donated $5 million to help quake victims via two humanitarian organizations: Disasters Emergency Committee and Doctors Without Borders.