Aid is being stepped up in southern Turkey and northern Syria after a huge earthquake devastated the region, killing more than 7,000 people.
A 7.8-magnitude quake struck near Gaziantep, Turkey, early Monday, reducing apartment buildings to rubble at a time when most were asleep.
It’s a region where there hasn’t been a major earthquake for more than 200 years, or any warning signs.
National governments of many countries including the UK, US, China and Russia are providing aid, including search and rescue experts.
And many charities also launch appeals and send teams to the area.
The British Red Cross was one of the first major UK charities to launch its appeal.
It is working in partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and is already on the ground “providing urgent support during these critical hours” and evacuating people to safety.
Many of the injured lost their homes and all their belongings, surviving in freezing or rainy conditions with little shelter or food.
Oxfam is another major charity to have launched an appeal.
He said he would focus on providing “protection, water and sanitation, shelter and food,” while also assessing people’s long-term needs in the aftermath of so much destruction.
His spokesman in Ankara, Meryem Aslan, said the local population was “in shock” and struggling to cope “following two major earthquakes and more than 60 aftershocks”.
“The scale of the destruction is vast. People are still in shock and fear, they don’t even have time to mourn the lost,” he said.
Turkish and Syrian communities in the UK – many looking for information on missing loved ones – have launched their own local giving campaigns – many using Facebook to reach out to volunteers and donors.
A spokesman for the Luton-based British Turkish Association said the reaction from “all communities” in London was “emotional”.
Atilla Ustun, 55, also president of the Luton-Turkish Community Association, spoke to the AP news agency from Heathrow as she helped load a Turkish Airlines cargo plane with more than 300 boxes of donated clothes, medical supplies and aid for the children.
“Every community in and around Luton has flocked to donate…Locally alone, in Luton itself, we’ve raised around £20,000,” he said, “but we know that overall, I think in London now it’s between £ 200,000 and 300,000”.
Ali Topaloglu, from the Nottingham Turkish community, is part of a campaign calling for donations of tents, blankets and clothes for Turkey, as well as money for food parcels.
“The Cold Will Kill”
The earthquake-hit region is home to millions of refugees displaced by the Syrian civil war, with northern areas still in conflict.
It was already a major hub for NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and charities, many of which have been there for years, as part of cross-border support for people displaced by war.
Organizations including Save the Children, Unicef and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) have all issued appeals since the earthquake.
MSF has provided immediate support to 23 health facilities in Idlib and Aleppo, north-west Syria, where hospitals and clinics are “overwhelmed” and access to the war-torn region for external medical personnel can be difficult.
The charity is providing emergency medical kits and staff to strengthen local health teams who are “working around the clock to respond to the huge number of injured”.
“Needs are very high in northwest Syria as this earthquake adds a dramatic layer for vulnerable populations who are still struggling after many years of war,” said Sebastien Gay, head of MSF in Syria.
Save the Children said they had spent a lot of time so far checking needs and what worked logistically.
James Denselow, UK’s Head of Conflict and Humanitarian Defense, said: ‘Providing shelter is the most urgent kind of help in our view, because the cold will kill people in ways less spectacular than the earthquake, but just as deadly. “.
He said that with airports out of action and hospitals and clinics collapsing, “all the places we would normally use are not necessarily accessible”.
He added that the aid route to northern Syria remained inadequate.
“Northern Syria is an area where we are dealing with severe malnutrition and much more enormous humanitarian needs than in other environments before this happened,” he said.
“If you’re a vulnerable population and then something else like this happens, obviously what happens to you will probably be much worse.
“We see this with very basic things like children’s physiology. A child’s ability to survive an accident caused by a building falling on them is greatly reduced if they are malnourished.”
He added: ‘It will be about getting blankets, food, clean water, education kits – so that children don’t find their studies completely devastated by this – for them.
“We’ve got to keep those people warm, we’ve got to keep the little kids warm.”
David Wightwick, CEO of medical aid charity UK-Med, said his team were heading to Turkey to assess where their help was most needed, before mobilizing their roster of hundreds of doctors from the UK. SSN.
“You can imagine in an area affected by the size and with the numbers affected that it’s not necessarily an easy decision to make,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
Larger humanitarian organizations generally don’t ask for blankets or clothing, but prefer cash.
“What people are giving today may not be what people will need tomorrow,” Oxfam says, noting the delays in aid arriving to victims due to shipping times from the UK.
“Our approach is to work with local organizations and communities on the ground, rather than sending blankets, clothing and other goods donated by the UK,” said Magnus Corfixen, the charity’s humanitarian manager.
“In emergencies, we often do cash distributions because it’s faster, allows people to get what they need most, and also helps the local economy recover. From our many years of experience, we’ve found that in addition to giving people choices , cash also helps to preserve their dignity”.