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A day that started like any other day in Turkey and Syria fell victim to nature’s whim. In the wee hours of 6th February 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southeast Turkey and northwest Syria. Homes became rubbles, lives and livelihoods were lost, tears flowed and the depth of agony echoed as loud as the quake itself. The call for help was unmistakable, and the world responded. But there still aren’t enough hands to contain the trauma and restore normalcy to the stricken regions!

A Raging Quake

There is nothing gentle or kind about an earthquake, and the Turkey/Syria earthquake was even more terrifying. According to reports, this was the deadliest earthquake since 1939. It left horrendous destruction in its wake— more than 44,000 lives were lost,  thousands escaped with varying injuries, and tens of thousands have lost their shelters, source of livelihoods and everything that defined their existence.

The earthquake struck multiple times accompanied by aftershocks — and just when reprieve was on the horizon, two weeks later, another devastating tremor with magnitude 6.4 bared its fangs. This time, the city of Antakya near the Syrian border bore the brunt of the tremor. Buildings fell like jigsaw pieces and an already-embattled situation became the worst for it. Thus, the resounding plea for help has grown louder.

The World Responded

Alarmed by the colossal tragedy, countries and volunteer organisations around the world extended a helping hand in the remarkable spirit of humanity.

Recall that Syria was already ravaged by war and conflict and this recent tragedy exacerbated a deteriorating circumstance. But humanity reigns supreme in the face of natural or man-made disasters. The world was quick to respond to the affliction of its brethren.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) sprang into action and provided emergency supplies for rescue operations. The organisation supplied trauma and emergency surgical kits and activated a network of emergency medical teams.

Faithful to duty, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) provided surgical materials and medical equipment to Syria. They also distributed essential items such as blankets, mattresses and canned foods.

The European Union (EU) mobilised 27 search and rescue teams in Turkey. The teams consist of trained personnel from 19 European countries including 1150 rescue staff and 70 dogs. The union also extended aid to war-torn and quake-devastated Syria by funding humanitarian organisations involved in search and rescue missions. In a bid to help first responders and expedite rescue missions, they activated the bloc’s Copernicus Satellite System.

The United States ( USA), sent two search and rescue specialist teams to support the Turkish rescue operations. The teams comprise 79-person staff including Los Angeles County firefighters, structural engineers and specially-trained rescue dogs.

The United Kingdom (UK) provided 76 search and rescue emergency personnel, four specially-trained search dogs and rescue equipment to aid the embattled zones.

Germany also extended a helping hand by delivering a 50-member team to Turkey.  A part of the team comprising 42 professionals and dogs has been delegated to Kirikhan, near the Syrian border to fast-track search and rescue operations. They also supplied tents, generators, blankets and water treatment equipment to alleviate the suffering.

India demonstrated compassion and empathy by sending two teams from its Natural Disaster Response Force (NDRF) which comprises 100 emergency specialists and seasoned canine squads. They also delivered emergency and rescue equipment to support relief efforts.

China made a robust monetary contribution to Turkish authorities to the tune of 40 million yuan ($5.9 million) to boost rescue and relief operations. The country also provided 20 tonnes of supplies and disaster-focused equipment along with an 82-member rescue team and four search dogs.

Qatar was thoughtful enough to donate World Cup fan cabins/mobile homes to survivors of the devastating earthquake. The Qatar charity team also provided urgent relief supplies including ready-to-eat meals, medical supplies, clothes and food items. The United Arab Emirates pledged $100 million to sustain relief efforts while Saudi Arabia dispatched eight planes loaded with supplies to Syria and Turkey.

Aid and support have continued to pour in from several countries and continents across the world in various forms. From rescue teams to deliverables to funds, humanity has held hands with the stricken countries and pledged to support them through thick and thin. But is this enough?

More Helping Hands Needed

While aid organisations and countries have demonstrated significant support for the embattled regions, the weight and impact of the disaster outweigh the support needed.

This is especially true for Syria, which is battling both natural (earthquake) and man-made disasters (war and conflict). The tragedy has worsened displacement issues and heightened the suffering of Syrians. Rescue missions confront significant challenges in a bid to reach conflict-ridden areas affected by the earthquake.

Most of the areas in Syria are literally “forbidden territories”, no thanks to the ongoing war. Nonetheless, aid workers are still working relentlessly to offer assistance to the victims. On the whole, aid organisations have called for increased support, assistance and resources to aid the ailing nation and its neighbouring country, Turkey.

While the support shown thus far has been nothing but commendable, humanity needs to do more to completely eradicate the calamitous aftereffects of the earthquake. Whether as individuals or as a collective, Turkey and Syria need all the support the world can muster. There are several charity organisations you can donate funds and resources to help the people of Turkey and Syria. Your one pence can save a dying child or rescue a family. Kindness isn’t expensive and you can afford empathy.

Lessons Learnt

 The earthquake, as catastrophic as it is, has highlighted the importance of solidarity and cooperation. Differences and grudges were set aside and humanity took centre stage. It has also brought forth the resilience and compassion of the human race, as people from all walks of life united to lend a helping hand to victims and survivors.

Nonetheless, People are still trapped under rubble, some have lost loved ones, and others have no food, drink or protective clothing to protect them from the harsh weather. There is a shortage of supplies and resources as those on the ground can’t go around.

While recovery efforts are still in full swing, it is important to recall the lessons learnt from this disaster. That unity only breeds progress. That we are more than blood and bones but a race defined by altruism and benevolence, finally, lend a helping hand today because the people in Syria and Turkey need more support than ever.

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