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The first day after the earthquake – dramatic situation in Syria

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Since yesterday we have been observing a dramatic struggle of rescuers to save the lives of victims of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The entire area affected by the tremors stretched over 330 kilometers from the Syrian city of Hama to Diyarbakir in Turkey. Among the groups hardest hit by the disaster are millions of Syrian refugees on both sides of the border. The Polish Medical Mission provides the most necessary medical aid to the area of north-western Syria.

Thousands of people are looking for shelter in a place that until Monday was not ready to meet the basic needs of residents, and now is in a state of multi-level crisis. Temperatures oscillating around zero in the absence of infrastructure that can be used as a temporary shelter is a real threat to life. Ensuring access to clean water is particularly important due to the ongoing cholera epidemic. There is no communication system in the country that would facilitate the organization of help between hospitals and crisis management. Humanitarian organizations operating in Syria are calling for support to ensure continued medical and humanitarian supplies to the most affected regions. Polish Medical Mission will initially provide assistance worth USD 43,000, which will cover the costs of i.a. launching an emergency room and trauma surgery at the hospital in Shamarin, providing necessary medicines to health centers, ready meals for displaced people, and fuel for health care facilities in need. The organization has been providing aid to northwestern Syria since 2017.

One of the strongest earthquakes in Turkey in the last century and perhaps the most severe in 900 years in Syria is a huge challenge for the government and NGOs. Immediately after the first tremors, Turkey issued a call to the international community to send trained rescue teams. The first of them started working less than 24 hours after the disaster. The situation is different in civil war-torn Syria – more than four million people in the northwest of the country are on their own and with very limited resources of local rescue teams.

Two-thirds of people in northwestern Syria live in incomplete or unfinished buildings, so they were most vulnerable to the effects of the quake. I receive files with hundreds of people who have died listed by name. Plus thousands of injured. The death toll will increase: there are still many families trapped in the rubble. I know of one village in the Harim district of Idlib where twenty-five five-story buildings collapsed – that could be up to 700 victims in that one spot. This also affects our loved ones: my cousin, his wife, and three children are missing, my three other cousins are also dead, there are also many injured

— says doctor Mansour Alatrash, a Syrian doctor who has been cooperating with Polish Medical Mission in helping refugees for five years..

umanitarian aid reaches northern Syria only through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing, which connects the Turkish highway to Idlib, one of the largest cities in the region controlled by the anti-government opposition. The lives of Syrians remaining in the country, often coming from other provinces, who sought safety in one of the refugee camps closer to the border, depending on its functioning. Without the efficient functioning of the crossing on the Turkish side, it will be impossible to deliver aid.

The White Helmets work hard to save lives, but their capabilities are not up to the task. An additional obstacle is the weather conditions, women and children do not know where to go during frosts

— adds Mansour Alatrash

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