Nuzha Tarawiyyeh shows the destruction in her neighbourhood to the UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini during his visit to Lattakia Palestine refugee camp in March 2023 following the devastating earthquake in Syria. (Photo: UNRWA)
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini visited Syria this week to express solidarity with Palestine Refugees who lost loved ones in the devastating February earthquake.
Lazzarini met with the Agency’s staff in Aleppo, Latakia and Damascus to thank them for their immediate response and assistance.
“UNRWA staff in Syria showed exemplary humanitarian values,” Lazzarini said. “While many were affected by the earthquake themselves, they spared no efforts to support their community within hours. This was the UN at its best.”
"Even the 12 years of grueling war did not prepare us for this,” said an UNRWA staff member in Neirab camp near Aleppo. “Those 40 seconds of the earthquake felt like 40 years of war. We were terrified and are still traumatized."
The deep impact on the mental health of Palestine Refugees was evident throughout the stories they told the Commissioner-General in Neirab, Ein el Tal, and Latakia camps.
"Families lost almost everything including their most precious: their children. I met a mother and a father who lost their three children in the earthquake. No words can alleviate their grief and loss. The very minimum we can do now is to give them and many others empathy and assistance. While they will never forget, we must help families overcome their grief and loss,” said Lazzarini.
The tragic earthquake added to years of shock and trauma that have afflicted Palestine Refugees in Syria. Prior to the earthquake, they were among the most vulnerable, and their situation deteriorated constantly due to 12 years of conflict, deepening poverty, loss of jobs and devaluation of the local currency.
“For many donors, Syria is already off the radar, with multiple global crises superseding it,” said Lazzarini. “If anyone could see the immense pain and grief of Palestine Refugees, it would be impossible not to help them. We thank donors who have heeded our call for urgent funding for the earthquake and urge others to step forward and help cover financial needs under both the earthquake appeal and the 2023 Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Emergency Appeal. We cannot let people down as they endure one crisis after the other and as humanitarian needs among Palestine Refugees exponentially and rapidly increase. This is the time to help all Palestine Refugees in Syria, across lines and borders,” Lazzarini said.
During his visit, the Commissioner-General met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Faysal Miqdad, and the Director-General of the General Authority for Palestinian Arab Refugees, Qasem Husein.
At least 20 Palestine Refugees died; Over 560 Palestine Refugee homes and nine UNRWA installations were damaged due to the February earthquake.
UNRWA launched an appeal for US$ 16.2 million to meet the humanitarian and early recovery needs of Palestine Refugees who were affected by the earthquake.