Donors Pledge $7.5 Billion to Turkey, Syria After Earthquake

BRUSSELS — The European Union and international donors on Monday pledged seven billion euros ($7.5 billion) to help Turkey and Syria after an earthquake devastated parts of neighboring countries last month.

The European Commission announced after the fundraising conference in Brussels that Turkey will receive 6.05 billion euros of the total commitment in the form of grants and loans.

“The European Commission and the EU member states, as well as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, provide more than 50% of the total support commitment, with 3.6 billion euros,” added the Commission.

The 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6 killed more than 52,000 people – the vast majority of them in Turkey. According to the country’s president, almost 300,000 buildings have collapsed or been severely damaged in Turkey.

“We have shown people in Turkey and Syria that we support those in need,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU executive.

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Von der Leyen added that the global pledge includes €1.1 billion from the Commission and €500 million from the European Investment Bank, the EU budget.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the conference via video link and described some of the reconstruction challenges, including the deadly flooding that hit parts of the earthquake zone last week.

“Some of the aftershocks last for a while and are equal in magnitude to a separate earthquake,” he said. “We have battled flood disasters and challenging weather conditions.”

Erdogan said some 298,000 buildings were destroyed or rendered unusable in the 11 provinces hit by the earthquake.

“No country can fight such a disaster, regardless of its level of economic development,” he said, putting the cost of reconstruction at $104 billion. “Your contributions at this conference will help heal the wounds and erase the traces of this disaster.”

NGOs, G-20 countries and UN members, as well as international financial institutions took part in the conference organized by the European Commission and Sweden, which holds the EU presidency.

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Survivors of the earthquake in rebel-held northwest Syria have received very little aid because of the country’s 12-year war, which is deeply divided. According to the EU, 15.3 million Syrians out of a population of 21.3 million needed humanitarian assistance before the earthquake.

The bloc has been providing humanitarian aid to Syria since 2011 and wants to increase this. But it has no intention of helping rebuild the war-torn country, as the EU imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime for its continued crackdown on civilians.

Von der Leyen said the Commission pledged an additional 108 million euros ($115.8 million) in humanitarian aid to Syria on Monday.

“Together with our partners, we managed to collect 950 million euros ($1 billion) for the benefit of the Syrian people,” he said. “This is just the first step.”

The International Rescue Committee, the aid group that responds to humanitarian crises, has called on donors to secure the UN’s appeals for Turkey and Syria, which require $1 billion and $397 million respectively.

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“People affected by this devastating earthquake are relying on donors meeting in Brussels this week to step up,” said Tanya Evans, IRC Country Director for Syria. They must ensure that funding is available for life-saving equipment, including food, shelter, warm clothing and clean water, and to support an already weak health system, including the provision of medicines and medical equipment. If they don’t, the most vulnerable will pay the price,” he added.


Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed to this report.