After a massive earthquake hit southern Türkiye and northern Syria in the early hours of Monday, prompting fears of a humanitarian crisis, the UN aid agencies scrambled to help many thousands of reported victims, including those still believed to be buried under the rubble.
The initial 7.8 magnitude quake struck close to Gaziantep, followed by another 7.5 magnitude tremor several hours later.
In a situation overview, the UN aid coordination office OHCHA, said there had been "close to 2,000 deaths reported" in the two countries impacted, with at least 78 aftershocks reported, ahead of the second earthquake.
The Turkish government issued a Level 4 alarm, calling for international assistance. Northwest Syria is home to around 4.1 million people who rely on humanitarian assistance, the majority, being women and children.
Syrian communities have been hit by an ongoing cholera outbreak together with harsh winter weather. So far there is a 48 percent funding gap for the last quarter of 2022, with $371 million pledged, out of a required total of just over $800 million.
Emergency medical teams from the World Health Organization (WHO) have been given the green light to provide essential care for the injured and most vulnerable, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted.
Specialist UN surge teams from the Office of UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) also tweeted that they were "ready to deploy," amid multiple horrifying social media posts showing huge buildings collapsing in heavily built-up areas.
The OCHA underscored that the initial 7.8 magnitude quake hit at the height of winter. The epicentre was in southern Türkiye, where nearby Gaziantep – an important UN aid hub for northern Syria – was among the cities affected.
Although the earthquake was felt as far away as Lebanon, closer to home, northern Syria's Aleppo and Idlib also reportedly saw thousands of buildings collapse, including two hospitals.
Humanitarian needs in northern Syria are already huge, as the region is home to millions of people displaced by the country's long-running war.
Snow and rain have hampered the work of rescue teams, whose families are also among those believed to be buried under collapsed buildings.
After an official request for international assistance from Ankara, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, confirmed that it was ready to support the emergency response.
Echoing that message of support, the UN migration agency, IOM, said its warehouse in Gaziantep had prepared non-food items and essential relief ready to be deployed. "The IOM teams are also doing on-the-ground assessments to inform the response," said spokesperson Safa Msehli.
Read more: What to know about the big quake that hit Turkey, Syria