Earthquake Causes Crisis in Turkey and Syria

On February 6th, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit parts of southern Turkey and northern Syria. The deadliest earthquake in Turkey in nearly a century caused vast devastation leveling entire cities and killing thousands. Current reports estimate the death toll in both countries at over 50,000.

With thousands dead and hundreds of thousands more without shelter, electricity, or food, Turkey has issued a 3-month state of emergency and 230,000 relief workers from dozens of countries have used popup shelters and rescue vehicles to clear the rubble and help recover those trapped, dead and alive, in the collapsed buildings. 

However, aid in Syria has been far less productive as debris, geographical complications, a civil war, and a president suspicious of western governments have made it difficult for the United Nations to import the necessary supplies for an adequate and timely relief operation. The people of northwest Syria “rightly feel abandoned,” says Martin Griffiths, a British official who served as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator at the United Nations. A resident of Syria, Ali Obeid who is a member of the White Helmets civil defense group added “We felt helpless, just helpless,” as the UN must fly most of their supplies in, then request permission, which is often refused, to ship it out to the front lines of the civil war where the earthquake took place. While President of Syria Bashar al-Assad has opened two more border crossings from Turkey, he still blames United States’ sanctions for interfering with humanitarian aid, but as the sanctions do not affect relief efforts, the State Department has refused to lift them.

The damage done to both countries and its people was disastrous and despite international aid, it will still take many years to rebuild what was lost.

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