A UNHCR airlift has begun, as part of a huge operation to bring aid for the surge of refugees fleeing from northern Syria into Turkey, with the first plane landing in the southern Turkish city of Adana on Thursday, carrying relief supplies.
So far, more than 144,000 Syrian refugees, mainly Kurds, have sought refuge in southern Turkey’s Sanilurfa province since last Friday (19 September), fleeing conflict and ISIS advances on towns and villages near Kobani (or Ayn al-Arab) in northern Syria.
“This sudden and massive influx of traumatized people into Turkey comes at a time when this country is already generously hosting well over a million Syrians. It is absolutely critical that the international community supports Turkey to respond to spiraling needs of so many refugees now as they will soon be facing winter,” said High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres.
The Airbus A310 plane from Amman will be followed by another seven flights and further consignments by by land and sea, for up to 200,000 refugees.
Together, the eight flights (ranging from 35 to 65 metric tons each) are expected to bring in over 130,000 sleeping mats, 107,500 blankets, 15,000 sets of cooking utensils, 13,500 plastic sheets, and five prefabricated warehouses over the next eight days.
These relief items, coming from stocks in global and regional warehouses, add to UNHCR supplies already in Turkey and currently being distributed to refugees.
Further aid is on its way by road convoy from Copenhagen and via sea from Dubai to Mersin, Turkey, expected to arrive on 11 October. UNHCR is also buying mattresses, hygiene and other priority items locally.
As of Thursday morning, refugees were continuing to stream through the Yumurtalik border crossing into Turkey, some 10 kilometres from Kobani. Some 1,300 crossed yesterday (24 September).
An estimated 80 per cent of the refugees are women and children, with 20 per cent elderly or disabled. Many say they personally witnessed attacks and atrocities, while others fled the threat of conflict and violence.
The UNHCR aid will be used to alleviate conditions in crowded collective shelters including boarding schools, community halls and mosques and distributed to refugees staying with host communities. An estimated 50,000 refugees from the latest influx are still in need of adequate shelter.