©James Buck

Médecins du Monde International Network urges for unimpeded access and quick mobilization of funds after the earthquakes that affects Türkiye and Syria

Following the earthquakes that stroke heavily Syria and Türkiye on February 6th, 2023, causing at least 19,000 confirmed deaths and affecting millions of people in Türkiye and Syria, MdM is asking for unimpeded access to those most in need and quick mobilization of funds needed to save lives and to provide basic support to the victims.

On the Turkish side a high number of buildings and roads have been completely destroyed by the strongest earthquakes in decades. The population of the affected areas struggles having access to basic infrastructure such as water or electricity as well as shelters. Members of rescue teams still try hard to access all people in need.

At the same time the situation is particularly difficult in Northwest Syria, where 4.1 million people already depend on humanitarian assistance and live in dire conditions due to the effects of 12 years of conflict. The earthquakes, in the midst of a harsh winter, have added an unbearable burden to an already dire situation. Numerous buildings and shelters in Northwest Syria have been destroyed and the already insufficient number of health facilities have become unusable. Hospitals are damaged and overwhelmed, and all of MdM’s clinics in the areas are either partially or totally damaged. Many health care personnels have suspended services because they are dealing with the consequences of the disaster for themselves and their families.

There is an urgent need for emergency medical response. Health services need to be reestablished quickly to prevent more disruption to basic care and avoid spiraling consequences, especially in areas already plagued by cholera outbreaks and nutrition issues. Women and children’s specific needs must be addressed, with a focus on sexual and reproductive health. Psychological needs, such as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders are already soaring. Medical kits, first aid kits that include winter clothes, surgical consumables, bed covers, and mattresses are among the most needed.

The disastrous situation on the Turkish border of Syria is impacting the capacity of humanitarian organizations to provide aid in Northwest Syria. The province of Hatay in Türkiye, where MdM Türkiye has a regional office, was one of the main points of delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria with a strong presence of numerous humanitarian NGOs. The city is completely devastated, further impacting our capacities to provide aid to the Syrian people.

We at MdM are stepping up our emergency operations in all affected areas and are getting ready for long term support of people in need. Right now, we are responding to the emergency by providing first aid and psychosocial support. Within the first 24 hours we deployed our field teams to the Turkish province of Hatay supporting the emergency response. We have also started supporting the population in Idlib Afrin and Jandaris on the Syrian side of the border.

We are now calling on the international community to increase their efforts:

●All relevant stakeholders namely the governments of Türkiye, Syria, the UN and the international community, must make sure thathumanitarian access to those most in need is unhindered, according to humanitarian principles:
○Declarations must be turned into action to ensure unrestricted access to all areas in need, without consideration of any political agenda. Those efforts should be supported by the international community.
○The delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria, including entry of materials, goods and personnel, and exit of wounded persons from Syria must be facilitated.
○All relevant stakeholders should work towards opening additional cross border entry points apart from Bab Al Hawa.
○The Syrian government should ensure safe and unrestricted crossing points between government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas of Syria, for the passage of humanitarian aid provided by non-governmental organizations to respond to the immense needs of the population.

The United Nations and donors community should step-up their financial support to affected areas, in a comprehensive manner:
○The Whole of Syria approach should guide donors’ funding streams to ensure that needs are responded to in the most relevant manner.
○Additional funding should be made available to responders in the affected regions, with a focus on comprehensive health needs, including psychological first aid and the minimum initial service package in reproductive health.
○Additional funding should prioritize supporting local organizations, which were and are first responders.
○Donors and the international community should invest right away in programs aimed at re-establishing vital basic infrastructure for all the affected regions. A focus should lie on water and health facilities and a plan for long term support of the affected regions.

Background information and MdM action in the region
On Monday the earthquake of 7.8 magnitude which was coupled by a second major one and several other aftershocks caused huge devastation in the affected regions in Turkey and Syria. Global cooperation at all levels is needed to meet the massive needs created by this disaster. Many efforts are underway by the international community and humanitarian agencies which are mobilizing their resources to rescue people in Türkiye and Syria as well as to help those affected by the earthquakes.
To date, thousands of people have already lost their lives and thousands more are injured or still under the rubble. Buildings, homes but also infrastructures, roads, airports, clinics and hospitals have been destroyed by this terrible earthquake.
Freezing temperatures, the destruction of certain electrical and communication networks as well as the constant risk of new aftershocks in the region make rescue even more difficult and reduce the chances of survival of people remaining trapped under the rubble.

MdM in the region:

In Türkiye
・- Since 2015, Médecins du Monde has been implementing programs in Antakya providing refugees and undocumented migrants with free access to healthcare, protection, and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services.

In Syria
– Since 2018, in Northwest Syria, Médecins du Monde has been providing primary health care, sexual and reproductive health, and MHPSS services across 14 health facilities, and one basic emergency obstetric and newborn care center.
– In Northeast Syria, Médecins du Monde has been working since 2017 ensuring access to primary health care services, including mental health and psychosocial support as well as sexual and reproductive health, in 14 facilities across 3 governorates. MdM also responds to epidemics and to the current malnutrition crisis.
– Since August 2022, Médecins du Monde has been working in governmental areas, through several partners, providing technical support in primary health care, MHPSS, and mobile clinics/teams.

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