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The UNHCR is now focusing on the provision of shelter and relief items to ensure that the centers for the displaced have adequate facilities, such as tents, plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, sleeping mats and winter clothing.
An estimated 5.3 million people in Syria may have been left homeless by the earthquake that struck the country and Türkiye earlier this week, a United Nations (UN) official said on Friday.
Sivanka Dhanapala, the UN Refugee Agency's (UNHCR) representative in Syria, told a press briefing via video link from Damascus that "We have just had a preliminary estimate that 5.37 million people affected by the quake will need shelter assistance in the whole of Syria."
"That is a huge number and comes to a population already suffering mass displacement," he added.
He said that the UNHCR was now focusing on the provision of shelter and relief items to ensure that the centers for the displaced had adequate facilities, such as tents, plastic sheeting, thermal blankets, sleeping mats and winter clothing.
"For Syria, this is a crisis within a crisis. We've had economic shocks, COVID, and are now in the depths of winter, with blizzards raging in the affected areas," he said.
He told reporters that several UN local staff were sleeping outside their homes because they were worried about the structural damage to their houses.
"This is just a microcosm of what is happening throughout the affected areas," he noted.
Catharina Boehme, a senior official from the World Health Organization (WHO), told Friday's press briefing that the situation was desperate, and it was a race against time.
She said that WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was due to meet with local partners and affected people in Aleppo on Friday.
According to the official, the WHO has already dispatched medical and surgical supplies to 16 hospitals in northwest Syria.
"The WHO has released some 3 million U.S. dollars from its contingency funds but much more is needed," she said.