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Violent earthquake kills thousands in the Middle East


Emergency | Syria | PUBLISHED ON February 6th 2023
Search and rescue operations conduct on a collapsed buildings after the earthquake that shakes Aleppo, Syria on February 06, 2023.

Search and rescue operations conduct on a collapsed buildings after the earthquake that shakes Aleppo, Syria on February 06, 2023. | © Omer Alven / Anadolu Agency / AFP

An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Turkey and Syria on the night of February 6th 2023. Already present in the region, HI launches an intervention to help the survivors.

A devastating earthquake for already weakened populations

The earthquake affected an area with a radius of about 400 km, located between southwestern Turkey and northwestern Syria where nearly 12 million people live. Several aftershocks from the earthquake still strongly shook the region in the following hours, some reaching magnitudes of 5 to 7 on the Richter scale.

Initial human tolls currently stand at over 2,300 dead and more than 9,000 injured [1] in both countries. Many people are still trapped under the rubble and the number of casualties may still change as rescue and evacuation operations progress. Critical infrastructure in both countries has also been affected. More than 1,700 buildings have already been destroyed in Turkey.

"Thousands of people have been injured. They have lost everything and are shocked by the terrible earthquake and the series of aftershocks this Monday in Turkey and Syria," explains Myriam Abord-Hugon, HI's Syria program director. "It is currently the winter season in these two countries and people are facing cold and bad weather after losing their homes and belongings. There is an urgent need to provide them with aid."

The populations in Syria were already very weakened by the recent violent fighting and a serious humanitarian crisis, the result of a war that has been going on for 12 years.

HI emergency intervention

Faced with this type of crisis, HI deploys its teams to assist earthquake victims. HI teams will provide physical and functional rehabilitation services to people injured by the earthquake, so that they can regain mobility and avoid the development of long-term consequences.

"We expect a huge need for rehabilitation," says Myriam Abord-Hugon. "There are thousands of injured people and many of these injuries can worsen or turn into permanent disabilities if people do not receive appropriate rehabilitation services. In addition, survivors have suffered significant trauma and will need psychosocial support."

HI will also deploy psychosocial support activities to provide first aid to those affected by the disaster. Individual support sessions will be provided and a mobile team will be sent to the field. In addition, in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people, HI will ensure that the elderly and people with disabilities are at the heart of its response. The association will organize distributions of mobility aids (such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers) and will work with other NGOs to ensure that the specific needs of these people are taken into account.

Finally, HI is currently conducting on-site assessments to decide on a possible additional mobilization, necessary to meet the immense needs of the population.

HI present in the region since 2012

In May 2012, HI launched its response to the Syrian crisis by initiating operations in neighboring countries - Lebanon and Jordan. The association then developed activities in the region from November 2012. 
Today, HI carries out physical rehabilitation activities as well as psychosocial support to disabled and injured people. These activities include the provision of mobility aids and fitting services (prosthetics and orthotics). 

Finally, HI conducts demining operations and manages risk awareness campaigns among the population to prevent accidents caused by explosive remnants of war.

[1]Figures on Monday 6 February at 3:00pm (Paris time).

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