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Turkey-Syria Earthquake: How To Help As Rescue Efforts Are Pushed To The Limit

Two women hug each other in front of a destroyed building in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Two women hug each other in front of a destroyed building in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Two women hug each other in front of a destroyed building in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey, Wednesday, February 8, 2023

The rescue mission in Turkey and Syria following Monday’s earthquake is far from over, and is coming under intense criticism – so here’s what you can do to help.

The earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck at dawn before many were awake, quickly causing thousands of buildings to collapse and trapping scores of people beneath the debris.

Two more, slightly smaller, earthquakes followed, along with hundreds of aftershocks. More than 11,200 have been reported dead so far.

Turkey’s disaster management agency said 8,574 had died in the disaster-hit country, while 2,600 have been reported dead in Syria: 1,400 in rebel-controlled regions and 1,200 in government areas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believes up to 20,000 may have died from the earthquake, and up to 23 million people could be affected – dubbing it a “crisis on top of multiple crises”.

In Turkey, about 60,000 people are supporting the rescue effort, while worries about how to get aid to Syria are yet to be resolved. Harsh weather conditions have also added yet another obstacle for the overall mission.

Here’s what you need to know.

Why are rescue efforts under fire?

While the international community has pledged to help, a shortage of humanitarian workers, questions over accessibility and conditions for those now left without a home are all pressing concerns for those within the rescue mission.

A survivor in Antakya, Turkey, told Reuters news agency: “Where are the tents, where are food trucks? We haven’t seen any food distribution here, unlike previous disasters in our country.

“We survived the earthquake, but we will die here due to hunger or cold here.”

“We’ve heard residents complaining that they’ve had to shout and scream and stamp to get attention for this area,” Sky News’s Alex Crawford said, as she reported from the same region.

On Tuesday, Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan said the situation was now “under control” despite delays initially.

“We had some problems in airports and roads but we are better today. We will be better tomorrow and later. We still have some issues with fuel…but we will overcome those too.”

He has promised to build houses for those who had been left homeless within a year. Erdogan later defended his government’s response by saying that it was “impossible” to prepare for a disaster this large.

Meanwhile, in Syria, a country which has been caught up in a civil war for more than 11 years, there are worries that it will be impossible to get aid to the rebel-backed areas.

The UN has promised that it is “exploring all avenues” to get aid to Syria, after releasing £20 million to kickstart the response there.

But, aid workers themselves need to be careful not to put themselves in danger, which is another concern slowing down relief efforts.

On top of that, there’s the sheer number of people who are trapped.

Aid worker Salah Aboulgasem, for the charity Islamic Relief, told Sky News that “it’s a real race against time”, and there simply aren not enough body bags.

Indeed, some people have only been found once they posted on social media, such as 20-year-old, Boran Kubat, who was pulled out from rubble after his friends saw his call for help online.

Meanwhile, overnight temperatures are expected to average at about -7C in Gaziantep, the epicentre of the quake – heightening worries about anyone who is still trapped in this extreme weather.

How you can help

You can donate to any of the charities below to help with emergency aid:

1. Red Cross

One of the first major UK charities to launch its appeal, it is working in conjunction with the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

Donate by calling 0300 004 0339, download the postal form or donate on the website.

2. RE:ACT

The disaster response charity is looking to deploy a team on the ground in the disaster.

Donate on the website here.

3. ActionAid

This charity will use donations to provide “food, medical aid, warm clothing, heaters and cash for those who have lost their homes and are out on the street”.

You can donate here.

4. Oxfam

Oxfam is looking to assess the immediate and longer-term support needed to help people on the ground, including water, sanitation, shelter and food supper as well as longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction.

You can donate here here.

5. Save the Children

The charity will offer families “the food, warm blankets, winter clothes and shelter materials they need to survive”, as well as safe spaces for women and children and psychological support.

You can donate here.

6. Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders is working in Syria, offering emergency trauma and surgery kits to hospitals and clinics in the region, deploying ambulances and helping with hard-hit healthcare facilities.

You can donate to MSF here.

7. Unicef

The charity wants to make sure “affected children and families have access to safe drinking water and sanitation service – critical in preventing illness in the early days of a crisis.”

You can donate here.

8. The White Helmets

The team aims to offer food, shelter and medical assistance. Run by Syrian volunteers, it aims to help those displaced with the basic needs.

You can donate here.

9. Check on your local organisations

Local shops may be collecting clothes, tents or hygiene products which are then sent to Turkey and Syria, such as this food store in London.

10. Check JustGiving and GoFundMe appeals

The fundraising websites have become a great base for people to start their own crowdfunding efforts. A spokesman for the British Turkish Association said that the worldwide donation amount for rescue efforts exceeded £250,000 in a single day this week.

Do make sure that you are contributing directly to the humanitarian efforts through this websites, though.

Alternatively, you could set up your own fundraising page, like this artist who raised £7,500 in just 18 hours for the charity, Choose Love – it helps displaced people around the world – by selling her own artwork.

What has the UK agreed to do?

The UK government is already sending vital items to help survivors, including tents, blankets and hygiene kits and a 77-strong search and rescue team (and four search dogs) on the ground, who will have heavy-duty equipment to cut through collapsed buildings.

Surgical teams and equipments will be sent, too.

This should meet the needs of up to 15,000 people, according to the government. It is also coordinating with the Turkish government and the UN in Syria.

This is worth £8 million of additional support, according to foreign secretary, James Cleverly.

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