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A United Nations official in Syria weighs in on the state of earthquake recovery

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

We now turn to Aleppo in Syria, where relief efforts are also underway. Aleppo is in northwestern Syria. Two million people live there, and it suffered severe damage in last week's earthquakes. Himyar Abdul Moghni is the Syria representative for the United Nations Population Fund, which focuses on women and girls. He joins us now from Aleppo. Thanks for being with us.

HIMYAR ABDUL MOGHNI: Thank you very much indeed for having me.

RASCOE: Can you tell us about what you're seeing in terms of damage in Aleppo right now?

MOGHNI: It is really catastrophic what is happening now in Aleppo. Aleppo is part of the northern part of Syria. So this is one of the cities that has been majorly impacted by the recent earthquake. The - as you said, there are estimations of more than 2 million who are inhabiting in this city, but more than 70% of them are women who have been already through a protracted crisis throughout the past 10 years.

RASCOE: So are those your aid priorities, just getting basics and supplies to the women in the area? Are there other priorities that you have?

MOGHNI: There are, of course, many priorities. We are now responding to the first line. So what we - after the rescue committee and the people who are getting the bodies has ended their operations, now we are responding in the shelters. There are - in Aleppo only there are more than 220 shelter that has more than 70,000 people there. These are in the shelters only. But the rest of these people are in the streets. They cannot go to their home. They are in panic because the earthquakes has not yet ended. And there are shakes and waves coming, and people are really scared to go back to their homes. Most of the city, if you know, has been affected through the long crisis and most of the buildings has been already, you know, either shaking or destroyed. So now is the time - every day we are seeing buildings that are collapsing more and more.

RASCOE: What is the medical situation like, and are health facilities able to be up and running with the impact of the earthquake?

MOGHNI: Of course, the health facilities - there are hospitals provided still the services. They are really burdened with receiving the affected and the injured people and then the - those who has been going through the trauma. Women, as always in these crisis, will be accessing the services. But it's not as it used to be. So those regular services that women could have, it is not now possible because doctors have shift their attentions.

RASCOE: We have been reporting on how hard it is to deliver aid in some parts of the affected areas in Syria. How has this affected your own relief efforts?

MOGHNI: For us at UNFPA, we have been coordinating with the government, the authorities, and we have been getting all the - since the crisis started, the clearances and approvals has been taken quickly and then rapidly in these areas. There are the cruise line that are the areas that are not under the control of the government. And now is - U.N. is discussing how we can, and today has started from Turkey and also crossing the line from inside Syria to these affected areas. The process now is taking humanitarian, and there are no - nothing is or can hinder us from going there. We are humanitarian workers. We will do our best to respond to the people in need, wherever they are and whatever the political condition is.

RASCOE: What more does Syria need at this time? I know the need is overwhelming, but what should people be focusing on? What should governments be focusing on?

MOGHNI: Indeed, whatever kind of supports that has given, food is still an issue. The health, the medications that we - with our resources that we have and the kind of commodities that we had inside the country will be depleted very soon.

RASCOE: Himyar Abdul Moghni is the Syria representative for the United Nations Population Fund. Thank you so much for joining us.

MOGHNI: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.