The UN recognises Ankara's efforts to ensure millions of refugees have basic supplies amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The global pandemic has increased the number of displacements, pushing it beyond World War II level. At least 71 million people, as per the UN, were forced to flee their homes last year alone, and in this context, migrants and refugees have been subjected to the worst forms of human rights abuse.

With the outbreak of coronavirus, the dangers they faced turned vicious, while threats to their lives have become more prevalent than ever. 

A UN spokesman, Jens Laerke, recently said that fighting in Syria had started to subside, but the issue of large scale displacement and refugee influx continues to remain unresolved. 

According to Laerke, around 2.8 million refugees are in need of help and Turkey is proving to be a key player in making sure they are not destitute.

"There has been a reduction in fighting (in Syria), but that has not solved the problem for about 2.8 million people that are there who need our support. To help them, Turkey is a key player," Laerke told Anadolu Agency. 

Lauding Turkey for sending 1,800 truckloads of essential supplies to refugees in Idlib last month, Laerke Syrians are facing a grim situation in light of the pandemic. 

He also stated that the UN is asking for $3.8 million to help Syria, in terms of shelter, food, and health services. 

Turkey’s leading role in helping refugees

Despite dozens of calls by UN agencies calling on international support for Syrian refugees and their host communities, the lack of interest shown has undoubtedly worsened an already-difficult situation. 

Hosting almost 5 million refugees, Turkey has spent more than $40 billion on refugee welfare since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011. At least 3.6 million are Syrian refugees, while 165,000 are Afghans, 142,000 Iraqis, and more than 37,000 are Iranians. They are spread out in almost every province of the country. Refugees from Syria now account for about 4.29 percent of Turkey's 80 million population. 

According to the official numbers of Turkey’s Interior Ministry, more than 96 percent of Syrians live in cities: - they are settled in Istanbul, Hatay, Sanliurfa, Hatay and Gaziantep, while only 3.5 percent of refugees live in the camps. 

Ankara has received only $6.5 billion as part of the deal it brokered with the European Union in 2016, in which it was stipulated that Turkey must prevent refugees from entering Europe in exchange for financial aid and assistance. So far, the country has already spent more than $40 billion. Despite the EU and international community having seemingly broken the agreement set four years ago, Turkey continues to help due to its concern for people’s humanitarian welfare.

Reportedly, Ankara will extend the operation of two programs that are already established within the country until the end of the next year. Based on that, Turkey will keep providing financial assistance to over 1.7 million refugees on a monthly basis under the roof of the Emergency Social Safety Net programme. The other one will be conditional cash transfers which would enable more than 600,000 refugee children to attend school and receive an education.

Another vital issue the international community cannot ignore, is the lack of healthcare services in Syria as a result of Assad’s Regime and devastating Russian air raids on some of the largest hospitals. 

The national hospital with 400-bed capacity and a 600-bed complex in Eastern Aleppo, was forced to shut down because of attacks orchestrated by the Syrian Regime. Since April 2019, there have been more than 78 attacks on medical facilities in Syria.

Amid such destruction, the UN is increasingly concerned that the Covid-19 pandemic will have a ruinous impact on vulnerable people who get by without having a social welfare safety net and insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).

Source: TRT World