A man stands on the rubble of a destroyed building caused by the earthquake in north-west Syria

Charities appeal for public support in response to Turkey-Syria earthquake disaster

A group of humanitarian charities have appealed for aid and donations to help regions in Turkey and Syria affected by severe earthquakes this week.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launched the DEC Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal today, as the aftermath of the earthquakes in the Turkish regions Gaziantep and Kahramanmaraş left many in a desperate situation and more dead.

The DEC held a press conference earlier today, where Chief Executive Salah Saeed and other representatives talked in detail about the committee’s appeal and conditions on site.

Saeed said: “By working together with our charities on the ground and their local partners, we hope to reach millions of people across the region who are in need of immediate help to survive.

“We are hugely grateful to all for getting this message out.”

The dire situation

One of the guest speakers at the DEC conference was Salah Aboulgasem, an aid worker from Islamic Relief who participated remotely from Gaziantep.

Aboulgasem talked about the severity of the situation after the first 72 hours, with people coming to reality and abandoning hope on finding their loved ones beneath the destruction.

He said: “I’ve been working in the humanitarian space for more than 15 years.

“I’ve been to many disaster zones and warzones and I have to say that the size and scale of this is unprecedented.”

Aboulgasem also spoke of the emerging realization of the poor state of many survivors, carrying injuries and infections from the destruction and sub-zero conditions.

The charities’ efforts

The DEC is composed of 15 charities that specialize in providing humanitarian help in different areas across the world, including Oxfam and Islamic Relief.

The charities started appeals and fundraisers to help support their efforts in the affected regions on Monday, sending resources and supplies to their bases in the impacted areas.

Teams mobilised at the grounds worked to supply needs such as shelter, warm clothing, blankets and food rations, while ensuring access to clean water.

However even these groups have had difficulties in performing their jobs, with members also losing relatives and resources such as electricity and medical supplies damaged.

Magnus Corfixen, the humanitarian leader of Oxfam UK, talked about the impact on Syria in particular, a country in turmoil over the last decade.

He said: “They’ve been dealing with conflict, economy is at an all-time low and there’s been a recent cholera outbreak. Then you add the earthquakes and the winter.

“It couldn’t be worse.”

Tuffail Hassan, director of Islamic Relief UK, explained that what made the operation very complex for organization was how expansive the affected area was.

The incident reminded him of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, an event he was personally affected by, which cost more lives but covered a significantly smaller area of impact.

He said: “This reminded me of that and I started getting calls at six in the morning that something serious had happened.

“We started to exchange messages as a team from about 6:30 in the morning and we immediately started to plan and launch our campaign as we understood that it was huge.

“The response from our community has been immense.”

Unison to help others

The DEC allowed the organizations to pool their resources and efforts as one coordinated unit which Corfixen saw as a great benefit to this level of operation.

Despite the desperate circumstances, Hassan believed that the silver lining was how the crisis united communities together in a humanitarian effort.

“During a crisis, you really see a community come together, especially the British public who’ve always been known for their generosity and compassion.

“I’ve seen it again during these first three days and we’ll see it more over the next few days.”

The first earthquake of 7.8 magnitude hit Gaziantep in the early hours of Monday morning before the second one of 7.5 hit hours later in Elbistan, just over 200km away.

The death toll stands at around 19,300 as of February 9 with expectations of more over coming days.

PM Rishi Sunak said that the UK will match up to £5m of public donation to the DEC appeal.

This came after the UK sent £8m worth of supplies and rescue support, 77 members of elite rescue and medical teams.

Saeed confirmed that BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky will broadcast the appeals after the evening news tonight.

Featured Image credit: Karam Al-Masri and the DEC

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