People in southern and central Turkey and northern and western Syria have suffered the dire consequences of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck on the 6th of February 2023, causing massive damage and tens of thousands of fatalities. The earthquake left more than 50,000 people dead, and there are no longer chances to find survivors. People that need assistance are many, including in Syria, where regions placed under the control of the Syrian regime and those managed by Turkey suffered considerable destructions.
To shed the light on the situation that prevails in Syrian territory, the OCC talked to Amer Hijazi, president of the Asociación de Apoyo al Pueblo Sirio (Association of Aid to the Syrian People), a Spanish humanitarian NGO formed in 2011 to help Syrians caught in the worst social conflict Syria has ever witnessed.
What is the current ground situation in Syrian areas affected by the earthquake?
The ground situation in general is very difficult in Syria. I will give the example of the Northern part of Syria, where Turkey oversees the territory, and the Syrian government doesn’t have any control. As you can imagine, 12 years of war, plus storms and snow, plus the earthquake now, have considerably exacerbated the wide-scale homelessness, displacement and starvation that existed beforehand. Add to this that humanitarian aid is extremely limited because of the embargo that the Syrian regime imposes on this part of the country, and also because Turkey is in a situation of crisis itself.
What are potential lasting repercussions of this disaster given the already large-scale displacement of Syrians?
Obviously, many Syrians had been displaced before because of the ongoing war since 2011. The earthquake did not help the situation. Instead, it multiplied the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Regarding the means needed to address the situation and to help people, they are extremely limited. More needs to be done. On top of that, humanitarian organizations barely have access to this region, since the Syrian regime has imposed an embargo on the areas that are not under its control, stating that they are “hostile regions”. So international aid can only get to these regions through the Turkish territory. No other channel exists.
What role does Turkey have in the recovery effort?
Turkey is also in a difficult situation, of course. It also suffered the repercussions of the earthquake, with thousands dead, disappeared or wounded. Turkey gives priority to its own people (which is normal of course) and then, it assists people in Syria, by providing what it can.
How does your organization deal with the situation and its repercussions and how are you trying to assist? Is there any particular assistance or help that you need?
Our organization has been active in terms of providing emergency aid to Syria for 12 years or more now. We are probably the only organization in the world that tried to support and assist Syrian refugees and IDPs all through the last 12 years, without interruption. Most humanitarian organizations in the world typically have an interruption in their aid strategy towards Syria, but this has never been our case. We have sent 170 containers so far, each weighting 24 tons, to provide many essential things: blankets, vaccines, crops, legumes, diapers, sanitary towels, hygiene products, health and first-aid emergency material, stationery for schools, etc. People are in dire need of such products. We are also asking for financial donations, since the sending of products to Syria is very costly due to the geographical distance and to the difficulties in reaching the country as well.
To learn more about the Association of Aid to Syrian People and the ways to help it, please see all the details on their website.
Please note that the OCC and Saint Louis University are also organizing a campaign to help Action Against Hunger, an NGO that is currently assisting people in need in the areas controlled by the Syrian regime, despite the restrictions this latter tries to impose. For more details about Action Against Hunger and the way to help them, please click here.
To quote this article or video, please use the following reference: OCC (2023), “The Syria earthquake and its repercussions” https://crisesobservatory.es/the-syria-earthquake-and-its-repercussions
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