UN investigators slam sluggish help for Syria quake victims
The world failed to act quickly enough to rush life-saving aid to Syrians in desperate need following the devastating earthquake, United Nations investigators said on Monday.
The quake response was characterised by failures by the government, other factions in the civil war, the international community and the UN itself, which hindered the delivery of urgent assistance to the quake-hit northwest, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said.
They failed to secure an immediate pause in hostilities, or to facilitate life-saving aid through any available route, including for rescue teams in the crucial first week following the February 6 quake, the commission said.
The independent three-member panel, set up to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011 in the country, said they were now probing fresh attacks since the February 6 quake - attacks they branded incomprehensible.
"Syrians felt abandoned and neglected by those supposed to protect them, in the most desperate of times. Many voices are rightly calling for an investigation and for accountability," the panel said in a statement.
President Bashar al-Assad's government took a week to consent to cross-border aid access, said the commission.
Almost 6,000 people were killed in Syria by the 7.8-magnitude tremor that struck the country and neighbouring Turkey.
The UN estimates that five million people need basic shelter and non-food assistance in the quake-hit part of Syria.
More than 13 million people are displaced or refugees at a time when 90 percent of all Syrian civilians live in poverty, and 15.3 million are estimated to require humanitarian assistance to survive - the highest level of people in need since the start of the conflict, according to UN figures.