On Feb. 6, 2023, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria, resulting in a death toll of over 25,000 and over 80,000 reported injuries between the two countries. In Turkey alone, the number of deaths has surpassed 22,000, making it the deadliest earthquake the country has suffered since 1939. For those who survived, conditions are dire, with hospitals overwhelmed and many people homeless. According to the United Nations refugee agency, upwards of 5.3 million people in Syria have been displaced due to the natural disaster. Given the sub-freezing temperatures, lack of heating and electricity, and food shortages, citizens are struggling to survive. “Syrians don’t know where their next meal comes from. When we say meal, it’s not about vegetables, not about meat… it’s about simple bread,” Moutaz Adham, Oxfam’s country director for Syria, said. In Turkey, over 6,500 buildings have collapsed, and even more have been damaged. Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reported that an estimated 13 million out of 85 million citizens are impacted, and therefore declared a 3-month state of emergency.
In regards to international help, various countries including Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, China, Qatar, Canada and Saudi Arabia have pledged to deliver humanitarian aid to Turkey and Syria. The United Nations released $50 million for aid, but difficulties crossing Syrian borders have created challenges in delivering urgent supplies. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stated that any aid must go through Damascus, the capital of Syria, which further complicates rescue missions. The earthquake has only worsened the conditions in the country, which has been in a 12-year state of conflict, characterized by civil war and a refugee crisis. In light of the earthquake, the Syrian government has also called for countries to abandon their sanctions on Syria, a request that the United States Department of State has refused. However, in an effort to help, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued a temporary six-month exemption from sanctions for all disaster relief-related transactions to Syria.
So, how can you help? One of the easiest ways to help is spreading awareness about this issue, either through word of mouth or social media. If you are financially able, you can also assist by donating to reputable organizations that provide humanitarian aid. You can find a list of a few credible organizations below.