A man and two children run across a street littered with debris
Middle East

Violent earthquakes kill thousands in Turkey, Syria

Two powerful earthquakes, of 7.8 and then 7.5 magnitudes, struck Turkey and Syria on the night of Feb. 6. With more than 330 staff already present in the region, Humanity & Inclusion launches an intervention to help the survivors.

The earthquakes affected an area with a radius of about 250 miles, located between southwestern Turkey and northwestern Syria where nearly 12 million people live. Several aftershocks shook the region in the following hours, some reaching magnitudes of 5 to 7.

Initial human tolls currently stand at more than 2,300 dead and more than 9,000 injured in both countries. Many people are still trapped under the rubble and the number of casualties will likely increase as rescue and evacuation operations progress. Critical infrastructure in both countries has also been affected. More than 1,700 buildings have already been destroyed in Turkey.

"Thousands of people have been injured. They have lost everything and are shocked by the terrible earthquake and the series of aftershocks this Monday in Turkey and Syria," explains Myriam Abord-Hugon, HI's Syria country director. "It is currently the winter season in these two countries and people are facing cold and bad weather after losing their homes and belongings. There is an urgent need to provide them with aid."

The populations in Syria were already very weakened by the recent violent fighting and a serious humanitarian crisis, the result of a war that has been going on for 12 years.

HI's emergency response

Faced with this type of crisis, HI deploys its teams to assist earthquake victims. HI teams will provide physical and functional rehabilitation services to people injured by the earthquake so that they can regain mobility and avoid the development of long-term consequences.

"We expect a huge need for rehabilitation," Abord-Hugon explains. "There are thousands of injured people and many of these injuries can worsen or turn into permanent disabilities if people do not receive appropriate rehabilitation services. In addition, survivors have suffered significant trauma and will need psychosocial support."

HI will also deploy mental health services to provide psychological first aid to those affected by the disaster. Individual support sessions will be provided and a mobile team will be sent to the field.

At the heart of HI's response, are people with disabilities and older individuals. Teams will organize distributions of mobility aids—such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers—and will work with other NGOs to ensure that they enact inclusive responses.

HI is currently conducting on-site assessments to decide on a possible additional mobilization, necessary to meet the immense needs of the population.

HI's regional presence

In May 2012, HI launched its response to the Syrian crisis by initiating operations in neighboring countries—Lebanon and Jordan—to serve refugees. The organization developed activities in the region in November 2012.

Today, HI carries out physical rehabilitation activities as well as psychosocial support to people with injuries and disabilities. These activities include the provision of mobility aids and fitting services for artificial limbs and braces. Hi also conducts demining operations and manages risk awareness campaigns among the population to prevent accidents caused by explosive remnants of war.

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