On the morning of Feb. 6, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the shared area between central Turkey and northwest Syria, a devastating natural disaster that’s rallying international humanitarian organizations for support.
According to CNN, it was the strongest earthquake to hit the area in the last 100 years, with the rising death toll and infrastructure damage caused by the initial earthquake exacerbated by a second, magnitude 7.7 earthquake not long after.
So far, more than 2,000 people have died and thousands more have been injured.
At the same time, the region faces natural and political crises that will make relief work even more important. Plummeting temperatures, snow, and rain storms are ushering in a frigid winter to both rural and urban homes in the area, and Syrian communities in the north already contend with a geopolitical humanitarian crisis caused by years of violent conflict.
“Many people, including children, are displaced and remain outside in streets and open areas. The government of Syria closed schools and universities for today, and some are being used as shelters. The psychological impact on some people we met is grave,” said Angela Kearney, a UNICEF representative in Syria.
For this reason, established networks of aid organizations have quickly moved in to address immediate needs.
Other organizations, both local and international, are organizing their own relief efforts to provide emergency rescue and medical aid for those affected, and are calling on the global community to help support their work.
Donate to relief organizations on the ground
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, local authorities are focused on life-saving rescue efforts in the rubble of thousands of collapsed buildings, including schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings. In support, NGOs, nonprofits, and local organizations are filling gaps in medical and social services.
CARE is an international nonprofit focused on ending poverty, providing access to education, and addressing humanitarian crises on-the-ground. The organization has mobilized its team in the city of Gaziantep to respond to the worst affected areas in Turkey and Northwest Syria. On-the-ground teams and partners have taken on the task of delivering blankets, food, mattresses, tents, and other non-food items to people in need amid harsh weather conditions.
The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM) is an international nonprofit providing relief and medical care to those affected by Syrian conflicts. The organization issued a statement requesting emergency funds for aid and rescue resources, facing an overwhelming amount of need in local hospitals and medical facilities.
Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)
The Syrian American Medical Society is a global medical relief organization providing resources and aid to communities affected by conflict in Syria. The organization started a specific fundraiser for earthquake relief, which has already reached US$78,000 of its US$100,000 goal. Donations go to supporting hospitals and medical facilities, including evacuating patients, providing emergency aid, and other medical care.
International Blue Crescent Relief
The International Blue Crescent Relied and Development Foundation (IBC) is a humanitarian aid and development NGO based in Turkey, providing “emergency relief, rehabilitation, development, and risk mitigation to international communities.” The organization has a network of teams operating in Kilis, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, and Sanlıurfa, many of which are already assisting local authorities with rescue attempts.
In a public statement, the organization said it would use monetary donations to fund “tens of thousands of tents, heaters for the tents, tens of thousands of blankets, thermal clothes, ready-to-eat food for at least to 5,000 people, and basic first aid kits.”
UNICEF field office teams have already been dispatched to assess the situation in Turkey and Syria and provide immediate relief items and begin a quick rapid response. They will focus on four areas of need:
- Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), which includes assessing impact on main water stations, and interruption/damages in services, supporting water to those displaced.
- Child protection, which involves assessing separated or unaccompanied children
- Education, which includes assessing damages in schools and if schools are being used as shelter
Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
International humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders has mobilized in Syria to respond to the medical needs of earthquake victims. The organization is currently treating patients in Idlib, northern Syria, and are coordinating emergency medical kits and additional support to health agencies and other facilities.
The White Helmets (Syria Civil Defence)
The White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a national volunteer organization providing humanitarian and emergency aid to conflict-torn areas. The group declared northwest Syria to be in a state of emergency early Monday, and White Helmet teams are already assisting with search and rescue operations across the region.
GlobalGiving is a nonprofit-run platform that connects other nonprofits to donors. To support earthquake relief, GlobalGiving has established the Turkey and Syria Earthquake Relief Fund, which collects funds for nonprofit partners on the ground.
According to the organization, donations will “help first responders meet survivors’ immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, medicine, and shelter” as well as psycho-social and mental health support and economic relief. GlobalGiving will reserve any extra funds for longer-term recovery efforts by local, vetted organizations in the area.
Save The Children
International NGO Save The Children has teams on the ground supporting earthquake victims and assessing the impact of lost homes, buildings, and essential infrastructure. The organization is working with partner organizations in North West Syria and is establishing a response team in Turkey.
The organization will primarily provide affected children with access to food, shelter, and warm clothing.
Humanity & Inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion is an international victim assistance and disability rights organization that provides humanitarian aid and long-term support to survivors of conflict and individuals experiencing extreme hardship.
The organization is currently reinforcing a response team based in Syria, which will provide rehabilitation and mental health or psychosocial support. It is also deployed with the United Nations through UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) and will join an international emergency medical team to provide rapid-onset emergency services.
Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian aid organization that connects healthcare providers to communities around the world to address immediate and long-term health needs. Through its global emergency response teams, the organization is providing medical supplies and aid to communities in both Turkey and Syria.
World Food Program
Affiliates of the United Nations World Food Programme, including the World Food Program USA, helps provide food assistance to communities around the world. The organization currently provides 5.6 million people in Syria with food every month, and supports millions of refugees currently settled in Turkey. The program is currently collecting donations from the global community to distribute basic needs and emergency food.