The IRC is deeply concerned for tens of thousands who have been directly affected by a powerful 7.8 earthquake that has hit Turkiye and neighboring countries. Striking in the early hours of this morning, with its epicenter in southern Turkiye, shockwaves were sent across northern Syria and parts of Lebanon, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
Freezing temperatures have left thousands exposed to extreme cold, and many are without shelter. With buildings collapsing as people slept, there are fears that hundreds still remain trapped in the rubble across southern Turkiye and inside war-torn Syria. Search and rescue operations are ongoing but at the time of writing, there have been unconfirmed reports of at least 650 deaths and thousands injured.
Initial reports from IRC staff on the ground in Syria indicate that the impact has been devastating in areas that already host a high number of displaced and vulnerable families. This tragic incident comes just after the country was hit by a snowstorm that has seen temperatures plummet.
As the number of injured continues to rise there are very real concerns about the ability of an already decimated health system to cope inside Syria. Following years of conflict, hospitals in northern Syria are overstretched as they grapple with a recent cholera outbreak.
Tanya Evans, Syria Country Director for IRC says: “This earthquake is yet another devastating blow to so many vulnerable populations already struggling after years of conflict. It is a crisis within multiple crises – temperatures are plummeting to below zero leaving thousands exposed. Women and children will find themselves, particularly at risk of exploitation and abuse should they find themselves once again displaced. Many in northwest Syria have been displaced up to 20 times and with health, facilities strained beyond capacity, even before this tragedy many did not have access to the health care they critically need. IRC teams are on the ground and working tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, local partners, and those affected.”
The Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (2022-2023) is already severely underfunded with less than 50% of the required $ 4 billion funded. This earthquake will only increase the quantity and severity of needs on the ground. The IRC is calling on the international community to urgently increase critical funding to ensure that those affected by this emergency, within an emergency, get the support they need.