BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union and international donors on Monday pledged seven billion euros ($7.5 billion) to help Turkey and Syria in the aftermath of earthquakes that devastated parts of neighboring countries last month.
The European Commission said after its fundraising conference in Brussels that €6.05 billion of the total pledge would go to Turkey, in grants and loans.
“The European Commission and EU Member States, as well as the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development account for more than 50% of this total grants commitment, at €3.6 billion,” added the Commission.
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6 killed more than 52,000 people, the vast majority in Turkey. Nearly 300,000 buildings in Turkey have collapsed or been severely damaged, according to the country’s president.
“We have shown people in Turkey and Syria that we are supporting those in need,” said Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive arm.
Von der Leyen added that the global pledge included €1.1 billion from the Commission and €500 million from the European Investment Bank, supported by the EU budget.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the conference via video link and outlined some of the reconstruction challenges, including the deadly floods that hit parts of the earthquake zone last week.
“Some of the aftershocks have been going on for a while and are equal in magnitude to a separate earthquake,” he said. “We have fought against flood disasters and difficult weather conditions.”
Erdogan said some 298,000 buildings in 11 earthquake-hit provinces were destroyed or left unusable.
“No single country can fight against such a disaster, regardless of its level of economic development,” he said, estimating the cost of reconstruction at $104 billion. “Your contributions to this conference will help heal wounds and erase the traces of this disaster.”
The conference hosted by the European Commission and Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, was attended by NGOs, G-20 countries and members of the United Nations, as well as international financial institutions.
Earthquake survivors in rebel-held northwest Syria have received very little assistance amid deep divisions exacerbated by the country’s 12-year war. The EU said 15.3 million Syrians out of a population of 21.3 million were already in need of humanitarian assistance before the earthquake.
The bloc has been providing humanitarian aid to Syria since 2011 and wants to step it up. But it does not intend to help with reconstruction in the war-torn country, with EU sanctions against the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad in place due to its continued crackdown on civilians.
Von der Leyen said the commission pledged an additional 108 million euros ($115.8 million) in humanitarian aid for Syria on Monday.
“Together we managed to raise with our partners 950 million euros ($1 billion) for the people in Syria,” he said. “This is just the first step.”
The International Rescue Committee, an aid group that responds to humanitarian crises, had urged donors to ensure that the United Nations appeal for Turkey and Syria, asking for $1 billion and $397 million respectively, was fully funded. .
“People affected by this devastating earthquake are counting on donors gathering in Brussels to step up this week,” said Tanya Evans, IRC country director in Syria. “They must ensure that funding is available for life-saving items including food, shelter, warm clothing and clean water, as well as support for the already weak health system, including the provision of medicines and medical equipment. If they don’t, the most vulnerable will pay the price,” she added.
Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Turkey contributed to this report.