A month after the devastating earthquake in south-eastern Turkey and the border areas of Syria, aid agencies are still noticing a severe shortage of basic materials to save those who have survived the disaster.
Two earthquakes of magnitude 7.7 and 7.6 collapsed thousands of homes in cities where millions of people lived.
After the February 6 earthquake, 2.7 million people were forced to leave their homes, which were either destroyed or damaged to the point of danger.
But surviving a natural disaster, is only half the battle. Surviving without a roof over their heads, in the cold winter, with a completely destroyed infrastructure and a lack of basic necessities, such as drinking water, are the main challenges for all survivors of the earthquake.
This is the problem faced by those who were lucky enough to escape during the night, and those who were rescued from under the rubble.
Has international assistance helped?
One of the many international humanitarian missions in the region is the International Rescue Committee, which has been working in the region for a number of years, first because of the military conflict in Syria and now because of the devastating series of earthquakes in the Turkey-Syria border region.
Euronews spoke to the International Rescue Committee Coordinator Jennifer Higgins to find out more.
Is there enough international aid delivered to the disaster area? How are things today?
“The basic needs of the survivors today are the same as before”, said Higgins. “We are talking about shelter, food, medicine, sanitation facilities, drinking water and basic household items.”
“Some 2.7 million people in Turkey have been displaced by the earthquake. But it is simply not possible to accommodate that many people in temporary accommodation centres. And today people are just trying to find a safe place to live and figure out what to do next. Many are living in temporary shelters, in tents,” added Higgins.
Access to affected areas in Syria is difficult
Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, who had already lost their homes to war years before, find themselves in the same situation.
“In north-west Syria even before the earthquake, humanitarian needs were at an all-time high: some 4.1 million people depended on humanitarian aid, which is 90% of the region’s population. Half of that population was displaced even before the earthquake. It is therefore difficult to separate the needs in north-west Syria before and after the earthquake. After all, many humanitarian organisations were already trumpeting the dire humanitarian situation and the lack of humanitarian aid in the region,” explained Higgins.
In Syria, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the west of the country is under the control of rebel / opposition forces and there are no links to government-controlled territories, and all international aid has been delivered by Turkey through a single crossing point.
How are the efforts to deliver aid adequate to the scale of the humanitarian disaster?
“We saw a concerted effort to support Turkey in particular,” continued Higgins. “The country was very badly affected and cities in the south-east of Turkey were completely destroyed. Search and rescue teams have been coming in to help. International donors are now trying to ensure that aid is effectively funded for the population. But help is important on both sides of the border. Fortunately, two additional border crossings are now open for the transport of goods.”
How realistic are the problems with getting essential goods to the earthquake-affected population?
“There is no doubt that we will start facing some problems in the supply of certain goods. Some goods, including tents for refugees, are supplied by sea, directly to the coast of the affected region. Fortunately Turkey itself is a major supplier of many goods, it has its own domestic market and the country produces and supplies many goods, such as pharmaceuticals. That’s what we will be delivering to the north-western parts of Syria as well.”
What other support is needed?
But some of the elements needed to save people cannot be expressed in concrete numbers. There needs to be psychological help for children, and support for desperate adults who have lost close relatives.
“We can save people physically. But if they don’t feel safe psychologically, they can’t live peacefully. This is the key point. There are also long-term security implications for women and children, due to their living in collective centres or shared facilities,” explained Higgins.
“In addition, many here are deprived of sources of income. A high percentage of the population used to work in agriculture, but today everything has been destroyed. According to our data, almost 90% of the people have to borrow money somewhere to survive. We are providing targeted cash assistance to families so that people can buy the goods they need and survive in the coming weeks.”