On Monday February 6, in the early hours of the morning local time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Türkiye and Syria followed by a magnitude 7.6 earthquake mere hours later.
It is estimated that more than 5,000 people have died as I write this — with numbers still on the rise. Exact figures of the injured are unknown, but they are in the tens of thousands. Others remain trapped. It is still impossible to count how many people, how many communities, are displaced.
In short, millions will be affected.
Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan has declared a state of emergency in 10 cities. Emergency response teams have been deployed but rescue efforts and search missions have been hindered by multiple aftershocks, collapsing buildings, and freezing temperatures. Appeals for urgent help have been made — and the international community is mobilizing. The question is: are we doing enough, and doing it quickly enough?! In a situation like this, it is clearly never enough. The urgence is overwhelming.
I know, because I used to be one of those who mobilized for emergencies like this.
At the same time, I know that aid and assistance will not be equal. Geopolitical lines are drawn. Countries are still in conflict. And these conflicts have implications on aid allocation. In particular, the Ukraine/Russia war, sanctions imposed on Syria, and the Northern Syria de facto autonomous state will create complications.
One of these days, we need to have a (louder) global conversation about how to decolonize and depoliticize aid. Meaning, who does — and does not — get aid, who decides, and why. Blog for another day!
For now, as always, we lean on local organizations — on community groups and women-led groups and those who have always been, and always will be, on the frontlines. Even after our fleeting attentions have passed.
At the same time, these are the organizations we too often fail to fund fully, fail to support adequately, and sideline all-too-frequently. These organizations are already stretched beyond capacity. This time, how might we support and equip them to deal with a disaster on this scale? And to prepare for whatever may come next?
Zooming in on Syria for a sec. Why? It’s one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. And that is pre-earthquake.
Conflict has been ongoing since 2011, with the outbreak of the civil war. The consequences are both long-term and devastating. This country has the largest number of internally displaced people in the world — 6.9 million. In American terms, that’s more than the entire state of Indiana.
An additional 5.6 million people are registered as refugees in neighboring countries. As of 2022, before the earthquake, 14.6 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance. That’s all of Arizona plus Massachusetts.
A lot of people. In need of a lot of help. Conditions were continuously deteriorating, meaning more and more people cannot meet their basic needs. More poverty, more lives at risk, and more conflict. And more people affected, especially those who are already vulnerable — women, children, and marginalized and minority groups.
And that was before the earthquake.
Link to the full blog here!