GENEVA — The head of the Syrian "White Helmets" emergency response group accused the United Nations on Friday of failing to deliver appropriate humanitarian aid to rebel-held areas of the country ravaged by a major earthquake and its aftershocks.
Raed Al Saleh, who leads the group, said the area had not received any disaster response aid from the UN since Monday's earthquake, adding that the six trucks that crossed the border into Syria on Thursday had been a regular shipment that had been delayed.
"The trucks that entered yesterday are a convoy that was scheduled to enter on Monday but was late due to the earthquake," he told reporters via video link from Idlib. "Until now no aid has arrived to northwest Syria from the UN as a response to the earthquake."
Saleh called the United Nations' response "catastrophic" and said the body should "apologize to the Syrian people for the lack of help it provided."
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saleh's allegations.
The International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, said 14 trucks carrying humanitarian aid had crossed into Syria after departing from the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep earlier on Friday. The trucks, bound for rebel-held Idlib, carried items including electric heaters, tents and blankets, according to the IOM.
When asked whether the 14 trucks that crossed into Syria were part of a regular aid shipment and not linked to the earthquake response, IOM spokesperson Paul Dillon said the "pre-positioning" of aid was not the issue.
"The issue is that critically needed humanitarian aid that is suitable for people who have been displaced, including tents, blankets and other materials, are being delivered to northwest Syria at this time," he said.
The White Helmets, known officially as Syria Civil Defense, have been credited with saving thousands of people in rebel-held areas hit by bombing by government and Russian forces in Syria's 12-year-long civil war.
White Helmets members say they are neutral. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his backers, including Russia, falsely describe them as tools of Western propaganda and of Islamist-led insurgents.