A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck southern Turkey near the city of Gaziantep on 6 February, while people were sleeping. Hours later, a second earthquake of 7.5 magnitude hit the nearby Elbistan district of Kahramanmaraş province. The two earthquakes not only devastated much of southern Turkey, but they also badly affected northwestern Syria – a country that has already suffered due to an ongoing military conflict.
On 7 February, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced a three-month state of emergency in 10 provinces severely affected by the earthquakes.
Media reports indicate that the death toll could be nearing 8,000 in the two countries. According to AFP, 5,894 people have died in Turkey and at least 1,932 are believed to have died in Syria.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said as rescue operations intensify and more victims are found, the death toll could rise dramatically.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands are injured in Turkey and Syria. There is a desperate need for aid in the regions affected by the earthquakes, especially since millions of refugees displaced in the Syrian civil war live in these parts.
Relief and rescue operations are in full swing in Turkey. On 7 February, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay told reporters that 8,000 people had been pulled from under the rubble.
How are nations helping Turkey and Syria?
Several nations have come forward to assist Turkey and Syria. But Syria’s strife-torn political situation has complicated rescue efforts.
In a statement published a day before the earthquakes, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim for Syria, El- Mostafa Benlamlih, had said, “Sadly, needs are rising rapidly in Syria and not everyone who requires assistance is visible.”
“Over 75 percent of all sub-districts in the country are classified as being under severe, extreme, or catastrophic conditions,” he added.
Since the situation in Syria is complex, former United Nations (UN) aid chief Jan Egeland told the BBC that aid should not be going to “any of the political actors in Syria, neither in the government-controlled nor in the opposition-controlled areas.” Egeland recommended that relief in Syria should go through humanitarian and international groups.
Meanwhile, India has sent 100 search and rescue (SAR) personnel from the country’s Natural Disaster Response Force (NDRF) to Turkey. Specially-trained dog squads and equipment for relief efforts have also been dispatched. An Indian Army field hospital with a 30-bed medical facility has also been airlifted to Turkey along with a medical team.
India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar said that a flight carrying six tons of emergency relief assistance with life-saving medicines and emergency medical items has also been dispatched for Syria.
An @IAF_MCC flight carrying 6 tons of Emergency Relief Assistance has taken off for Syria.
Consignment consists of life saving medicines and emergency medical items.
Indian stands in solidarity with those most affected by this tragedy. pic.twitter.com/cqRavGX2yB
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 7, 2023
South Korea offered USD 5 million (HKD 39248254 approx.) in emergency humanitarian assistance to Turkey. The Gyeonggi provincial government also offered humanitarian assistance of USD 1 million (HKD 7849650 approx.). South Korea said it will dispatch a 60-person SAR team as well as medical supplies to Turkey.
Japan sent a group of about 75 rescue workers to Turkey.
It’s freezing cold in the areas affected by the earthquake in Turkey, and the affected people are in need of rescue & support. 2nd batch (55 members & 4 search dogs) of Japan Disaster Relief Team departed for Turkey, with firm determination to make best to rescue the victims. pic.twitter.com/UD3l0cDEzv
— JICA Media (@jica_direct_en) February 7, 2023
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed that a 77-strong British SAR team has arrived in Gaziantep with specialist equipment and dogs.
The White House said that the US government is sending two 79-person SAR teams to Turkey. Around 100 Los Angeles County firefighters and structural engineers, with six specially trained dogs, are also being sent to Turkey.
At least 13 member countries of the European Union (EU) have offered assistance. The EU has also said that it was ready to help Syria through its humanitarian assistance programmes.
The Israeli army’s SAR team comprising 150 engineers, medical personnel and other aid workers have been dispatched to Turkey. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he has approved a request for humanitarian aid for Syria, which came through a diplomatic official.
Russia has also sent its rescue teams to both Turkey and Syria.
How you can help Turkey and Syria
The best way to help the two countries is by donating to the multiple NGOs that have launched their relief efforts on the ground in both countries.
Turkish Red Crescent
The largest humanitarian organisation in Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent, or Türk Kızılay International, has mobilised over 600 staff and more than 1,400 volunteers to help in the relief efforts for survivors in Gaziantep and other parts affected by the earthquakes in the country’s south. Their teams are deployed in all 10 affected provinces and are supporting the injured and evacuated with stocks of food and items such as tents and blankets besides blood and plasma from their national stock. Apart from distributing hot meals, the Turkish Red Crescent is also providing psychological support to the affected.
The Turkish Red Crescent has also shared its international bank details on the official Twitter account.
🟥 Since the earthquake;
❝How can I help?❞,
❝How can I donate?❞
Here are our bank details to answer all these questions:🔻 pic.twitter.com/QZgyrYjASV
— Türk Kızılay International (@RedCrescent) February 6, 2023
International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has a presence in over 40 countries around the world. It responds to the most serious human rights emergencies, such as the earthquakes that devastated Turkey and Syria. Even before the quakes, IRC was already helping refugees in conflict-affected Syria.
“IRC teams are on the ground and working tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, local partners and those affected,” Tanya Evans, the Syria Country Director for IRC, said in a statement.
“Women and children will find themselves particularly at risk of exploitation and abuse should they find themselves once again displaced,” Evans said.
Underlining the critical situation in Syria, Mark Kaye, the IRC’s director of policy, advocacy and communications for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “What we have in Syria is an emergency within an emergency.”
IRC relies on donations to provide adequate healthcare and emergency support, among other needs, to the affected in both Turkey and Syria.
Save the Children
Soon after the earthquakes, the group, which works primarily to protect children, said that it will be distributing blankets and winter clothing in the coming days in both Syria and Turkey.
“This is one of the strongest earthquakes to hit the region in 100 years and made thousands homeless, while the region is experiencing freezing weather and snowstorms. Schools in the affected areas are now closed for a week,” said Sasha Ekanayake, country director of Save the Children Türkiye.
“Our teams are moving quickly to check all our staff are safe, and to respond to the emergency, but it’s crucial that the international community acts now to provide support to the thousands of people in need,” Ekanayake added.
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE has been at the forefront of relief missions in humanitarian crises including natural disasters.
In a statement on 6 February, Rabih Torbay, Project HOPE’s President and CEO, said that the group anticipates “a very arduous and long road to recovery ahead, including search and rescue efforts, health system reconstruction, and mass displacement.”
“As temperatures hover near freezing and airport closures and snowstorms delay access, Project HOPE has deployed an emergency response effort and is working with local and international partners to respond to the immediate needs,” added Torbay.
“There is no power, no food, no electricity, no water, and most of the highways are broken. It’s really a crisis, so it will take a lot of time [to recover],” Izzeddin Sultan Saleh, a Project HOPE Emergency Responder in Gaziantep, said.
The group said that its initial assistance will comprise urgent medicines, emergency kits, and medical supplies.
Doctors Without Borders
One of the world’s most famous humanitarian organisations, Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), announced that it has suffered a personal loss as one of its staff members was found dead under the rubble of his house in Idlib, Syria. Some of its other staff have lost their family members in the earthquakes.
MSF has mobilised its teams in northwestern Syria to work with local partners in response to the emergency situation.
Sebastien Gay, MSF head of mission in Syria, said, “[In] the first hours [of the disaster], our teams treated around 200 wounded and we received 160 casualties in the facilities and the clinics that we run or support in northern Idlib. Our ambulances are also deployed to assist [people].”
The organisation has donated emergency medical kits to 23 health facilities across Idlib and Aleppo and supported them with medical staff. Essential life kits and blankets are being donated to the displaced. The group is also working in Turkey with the International Blue Crescent.
The White Helmets
One of the world’s most respected humanitarian groups, The White Helmets has got down on the ground in Turkey and Syria. Around 3,000 of its volunteer rescuers are pulling survivors out of the rubble of the buildings destroyed in northwestern Syria.
The non-profit organisation has said that it needs more equipment to carry out its rescue mission and fuel to transport the injured. Their task has been complicated by the already depleted healthcare system in the region due to the civil war.
Global Giving helps connect non-profit organisations to donors. Itself a non-profit, it has launched the Turkey and Syria Earthquake Relief Fund with a target of raising USD 5 million (HKD 39248254 approx.) to meet relief needs. The money will initially be used to help provide urgent food, clean water, medicine, fuel and shelter.
“As needs evolve, we will prioritize longer-term recovery efforts run by local, vetted organizations in the impacted areas,” the group said.
Syrian American Medical Society
Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) has said that its medical teams have treated around 600 injured in their medical facilities. It has a stated goal of raising USD 1 million (HKD 7849650 approx.) urgently.
SAMS supports at least 36 medical facilities in the affected region of northwest Syria as well as a regional office in Gaziantep. It said that three of its medical facilities have suffered such extensive damage that they had to be put out of service. At least one other medical facility has also been damaged.
“SAMS-supported hospitals and medical facilities are overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways, creating an immediate need for trauma supplies. We need your support to treat the injured and save as many lives as possible,” the organisation said in an urgent plea on its official site.
Dr. Amjad Rass, SAMS president, said, “Across our operational facilities we’ve been receiving victims of the quake as they come in all while simultaneously working to guarantee the well-being of our over 1,700 staff members in Syria, and the 90 at the epicenter near Gaziantep.”
British Red Cross
The British Red Cross has launched the Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal to support Red Cross Red Crescent emergency responders on the ground in Turkey and Syria. The responders are meeting the immediate needs of the survivors of the earthquakes.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
The UNHCR is providing kitchen sets, mattresses and tents among other essentials that are being requested by Turkish authorities.
As an immediate response in Syria following the earthquakes, the UNHCR said that it was working through NGO partners on the ground. It is providing non-food items and core relief items such as blankets, winter clothes, shelters, tents, and cooking items.
(Main image: T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı/@tcsavunma/Twitter; Featured image: The White Helmets/@SyriaCivilDef/Twitter)
This story first appeared in Lifestyle Asia India