by: Aya Ecaldre || Photo Credit: Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by a series of aftershocks, devastated southeast Turkey and northwest Syria last February 6, 2023, at 4:17 A.M (GMT+3). More than 10,000 injuries have been recorded, and the death toll has surpassed 40,000.
The earthquake’s epicenter was near Nurdağı and Gaziantep, home to approximately 3.5 million Syrian refugees, according to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Several provinces with significant hubs for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supporting Syrians have been heavily affected in Turkey. Syrian cities of Allepo, Latakia, Hama, and Idlib, which relied on humanitarian aid after the civil war, have also been affected.
Rescuers have been aiding the victims, but the cold weather and shortage of fuel and vehicles are currently slowing down efforts.
The aftermath has left hundreds of thousands of families homeless, facing a significant risk of hypothermia as they struggle to survive in sub-zero temperatures. Children are now at a heightened risk of catching diseases such as cholera and Hepatitis A due to shelter and water infrastructure damages.
The authorities of Turkey have arrested at least nine contractors for violations of building codes that may have caused the collapse of several buildings leading to an increase in deaths.
According to the United Nations (UN), Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to open borders to allow and accelerate relief operations. In line with this, the UN announced the launch of USD 397 million humanitarian appeal for Syria and Turkey. Additionally, the organization has also released USD 50 million from its emergency funds for earthquake relief.
At the same time many international rescue teams have left the vast quake zone, survivors were still being found from under a multitude of flattened homes and buildings.
Several humanitarian organizations working in Syria also called for an increase in international support and relief operations to grant aid for the earthquake victims.