On Monday, February 6, 2023, an earthquake of 7.8 magnitudes devastated South-Eastern Turkey and neighboring Syria. The earthquake has had devastating effects, killing more than 22,000 people, as of February 10, 2023. The area felt an aftershock of 7.5 magnitudes almost nine hours later and since then almost 150 aftershocks hit the region. For Syria, a country already suffering from the effects of a brutal civil war, the earthquake has been a major tragedy as the international world races and struggles to get aid to their affected areas.
Previous Needs for Humanitarian Assistance
Prior to the devasting effects of the earthquake, Norther Syria already had more than 4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Estimates indicated that the recent earthquakes affected almost 9 million people, raising the urgency and need for humanitarian aid to Syria. There is a major shortage of supplies currently in hospitals in Northwestern Syria, meaning many who have earthquake-related injuries are at risk of not getting the treatment they urgently need. Earthquakes damaged and destroyed many hospitals and as they are facing issues with undersupplying and overcrowding, necessities such as fuel and medicine are in extremely short supply.
What is a striking reality considering the urgency of the current situation is the divide in aid that others offered to both Syria and Turkey. According to Sky News, getting aid to Syria is much more difficult due to the effects of the civil war, which has divided the country into different political fragments and the oppressive ruling government’s treatment of the population. In addition, many people have criticized the U.N.’s poor response to the current situation. Local rescuers have said that the U.N. aid that they have received was the regular supplies and assistance they were receiving before the earthquake.
According to BBC, the White Helmets, an organization that is active on the ground, has reported that the supplies received do not include any special equipment or aid for search and rescue teams, leaving people trapped under the rubble. The White Helmets volunteers on the ground reported that a lack of heavy machinery was severely hampering its rescue efforts and was strongly appealing to the international community for urgent aid to Syria. Finally, the politicization of humanitarian assistance has posed a major obstacle as the international community struggles to react efficiently.
Hope Still Exists
Regardless of the obstacles, hope still exists for Syria. The U.K. has increased its funding for the White Helmets and other agencies on the ground. Around 19 states of the European Union have promised water, sanitation reliefs, blankets, hygiene items and funding for humanitarian organizations. Russia is sending rescue teams to Syria and the Chinese Red Cross has pledged around £167,000 of aid to Syria. The UAE has also pledged £11.4 million in humanitarian aid and is sending medical equipment and search and rescue teams to the country, according to Sky News. Although the response may have been slow, the international community is slowly picking up its act and reacting to the urgency of the situation.
– Saad Haque