The Syrian government says it has set up more than 100 shelters equipped with aid supplies for those affected by the earthquake across government-controlled areas, including in the cities of Aleppo, Hama, Homs, Tartus and Latakia, a coastal city which has the highest number of deaths and more than 100 collapsed buildings.
In Aleppo, one of the cities that have been most affected by the earthquake, 126 shelters have been set up and 52 mosques transformed into centers for people affected by the earthquake, state news agency SANA said. In Latakia, the government says it provided 23 shelters and transformed 20 mosques into aid centers.
A total of 11 shelters have been set up across Hama, Homs and Tartus, SANA added.
The Assad regime says it is providing the necessary means for hospitals to function in the cities it controls, but are calling for additional medical equipment from donor governments and organizations.
“A disaster of this magnitude puts additional pressure on the health sector, which suffers from a shortage of medical requirements and medical materials due to the sanctions imposed on Syria,” Syrian health minister Hassan al-Ghobash said, according to state media.
“We demand immediate and urgent intervention from all organizations to provide all necessary medical assistance,” al-Ghobash said.
Human rights groups have accused the Syrian government in the past of imposing severe restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid across the country to “punish those who express dissent,” Human Rights Watch said.
When asked whether the Assad-led government will allow aid into rebel-controlled territories from Turkey, the Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said that international aid will be distributed only by the Syrian government.
“The Syrian state is ready to allow aid to enter into all regions, provided that it does not reach terrorist armed groups,” Mekdad said.
What’s the UN saying about efforts to help Syria: Aid is slowly reaching those in need, but even before the quake, the United Nations said 70% of Syria’s population needed humanitarian assistance.
“This tragedy will have a devastating impact on many vulnerable families who struggle to provide for their loved ones on a daily basis,” the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Syria and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The UN and humanitarian partners say they are currently focusing on immediate needs, including food, shelter, non-food items and medicine.
CNN’s Ruba Alhenawi, Raja Razek and Hilary Whiteman contributed to this post.