Donors pledge €7bln as quake aid for Turkey, Syria, fall vastly short
Aid groups urge donors to step up their commitment after the United Nations complained about the poor response that nations had for the urgent funding.
Donors pledged seven billion euros on Monday to aid Turkey and Syria recover from last month's devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake, although Ankara set the bill for reconstruction at well over 10 times that figure.
A conference hosted in the EU was arranged to generate funds six weeks after the earthquake struck, killing 55,000 people across Turkey and Syria.
Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan informed those gathered in Brussels in the meeting that the damage in his country was estimated to be almost 96 billion euros.
"Regardless of its economic standing, it is impossible for any country to fight a disaster of this scale on its own," he said via video link from Turkey.
The "recovery costs" set by the United Nations to Syria was $14.8 billion.
The seven-billion-euro pledge sent "one main message, that the people affected are not alone," said the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, despite falling short of any expected amount.
"The needs of the survivors are still massive and must be tackled with urgency," she said.
Read next: UN slams delays in aid for Syria quake victims
European Commission President started the fundraising by pledging one billion euros for the reconstruction of affected sites in Turkey and sending humanitarian aid to Syria worth 108 million euros.
The aftershocks of the earthquake added to the misery of Turkey and Syria, which contributed to displacing millions and leveling cities.
As a result, aid groups urged donors to step up their commitment after the United Nations complained about the nations' poor response to the urgent funding needed.
Achim Steiner, a senior official at the United Nations Development Program, called the pledges a "major step forward."
"It is very welcome, but in terms of the overall recovery and reconstruction we still have a long way to go," he told AFP.
Syria denounced the conference
Although the conference was meant for sending aid to both Syria and Turkey, the Syrian administration was not even invited to the event.
The Foreign Ministry in Damascus said it "deplores" the conference which took place in Brussels as it did not involve Syrian authorities.
It is noteworthy that rescue groups rushed to Turkey while ignoring sanctioned Syria's call for help. Humanitarian organizations faced major hurdles attempting to reach stricken areas in northern Syria, as militants prevented the entry of any convoys.
It is also noteworthy that Syria's ally, Russia, was also not invited to the meeting in Brussels.
Read next: Western selective humanitarianism, Syria earthquake falls on deaf ears