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Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

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Every minute we receive more and more tragic data about the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey and Syria overnight. At the time of this writing, aftershocks are still occurring and the death toll in both countries has reached 1,385. Thousands more are waiting for help.

For more than a decade, the Turkish-Syrian border has remained a particularly sensitive place where problems related to access to medical assistance, education and unemployment intertwine. Some of them are related to the ongoing war in Syria, which forced the inhabitants of the country to flee. The area of north-western Syria is a place of refuge for 4,600,000 people. According to UN data, over 70% of them are internally displaced, and in mid-January, 89% of all residents needed humanitarian aid1. In Gaziantep, Turkey’s 2-million city, the epicenter of the upheavals, refugees make up more than 20% of the total population.

In the province of Idlib in northern Syria, where civilians are still being killed in the fighting, up to one in three people is a child. We must not forget about them and we must do everything to ensure that they have any hope for a better future. – adds Małgorzata Olasińska-Chart. Currently, in Idlib, our friends are working to extricate victims of the earthquake from the rubble of buildings, who until yesterday lived in very poor conditions, and now are in a dire situation and need immediate help. Polish Medical Mission also helps Syrians in other countries where they found shelter, including Turkey. The organization remains in constant contact with local partners with whom it has been cooperating since 2017, providing medical assistance and prostheses for women and children.

Rescue operations in Syria are hampered by snowfall and low temperatures. The White Helmets, a rescue group created at the beginning of the war, immediately jumped into action. Just yesterday, its representatives reported poor conditions in refugee camps, which each year face a deepening crisis. In winter, collapses of snow-covered tents and fires caused by stoves used for heating occur regularly. In cities, people ran out of their homes in the middle of the night, and during the day they joined firefighters, searching under the rubble for their loved ones. There is currently no information about the possibility of sending international rescue teams to Syria.

So far, Turkey has responded to the call for help, including Poland, India, France, Greece and the Netherlands. Search and rescue teams will be sent to the site, prepared to act in the event of sudden disasters. Recep Tayyip Erdogan said during a press conference that it was the worst natural disaster to hit the country since 1939. So far, no demand for sending medical teams has been reported.

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