Millions of Vulnerable Refugees in Turkey-Syria Quake Zone


The devastating earthquake around the Turkish-Syrian border struck an area that is home to millions of refugees already battling desperate circumstances. The United Nations said Tuesday that it was trying to reach refugees affected by the 7.8-magnitude quake, though its existing aid programs are woefully underfunded.

Turkey hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled their country's civil war, almost half of them children. In the 10 Turkish provinces affected by the quake, more than 1.7 million of the 15 million inhabitants are Syrian refugees. Meanwhile within Syria, more than 6.8 million people were internally displaced before the quake, and nearly 60,000 Palestinian refugees were in quake-affected northern Syria.

UNHCR said the quake was an "absolute hammer blow" for displaced Syrians who have already suffered more than a decade of war, an economic crisis, and winter storms. "The situation is tragic," Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR's representative in Turkey said. Most Syrian refugees in Turkey are living among local populations, "in the same buildings which have collapsed. They are participating in the rescue as volunteers," he said.

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