UNHCR Airlifts Aid Into Turkey For Syrian Refugees

The United Nations refugee agency announced Thursday it has begun airlifting aid into Turkey for thousands of Syrians who have sought refuge there after fleeing the violence in their home nation. The agency added that the first aircraft carrying aid landed in the southern Turkish city of Adana earlier in the day.

So far, more than 144,000 Syrian refugees, mainly Kurds, have sought refuge in southern Turkey's Sanilurfa province since last Friday, fleeing conflict and ISIS advances on towns and villages 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 Antonio Guterres.

The UN agency said the first aircraft carrying aid, an 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.

Further aid is on its way by road convoy from Copenhagen and via sea from Dubai to Mersin in Turkey, and is expected to arrive by the middle of next month. UNHCR is also buying mattresses, hygiene and other priority items locally.

An estimated 80 percent of the Syrian refugees who arrived in Turkey though the Yumurtalik border crossing in recent days are women and children, with 20 percent 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.

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