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Three months after Turkey-Syria earthquake, thousands still living in temporary shelters

05 May 2023


Syrians in Idlib mark the first day of Eid ul-Fitr last month by visiting the graves of relatives killed in the earthquake

Syrians in Idlib mark the first day of Eid ul-Fitr last month by visiting the graves of relatives killed in the earthquake

THOUSANDS of people are still living in crowded shelters three months after the earthquake that devastated parts of Syria and Turkey (News, 10 February).

In Syria, temporary shelters in three cities are housing more than 44,200 people, according to reports gathered from a church aid agency. Many are also sheltering in schools, where they have not suffered earthquake damage, but this is preventing the return of children to education.

Crowded and insanitary living conditions have also led to a sharp increase in deaths from common illnesses such as flu and diarrhoea, a report from the development arm of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch & All the East, GOPA-DERD, said. A ten-day cholera vaccination campaign has begun in parts of north-western Syria, inoculating 1.7 million children.

The earthquake in February was followed by dozens of smaller earthquakes and aftershocks, killed about 55,000 people, and left thousands more injured and homeless.

In Syria, a country that has already experienced prolonged conflict, the situation was dire, GOPA-DERD said. People were struggling with rising food prices — up 121 per cent in the past year — and many medical facilities had been either damaged or destroyed.

The Middle East Council of Churches has teams in Syria assessing buildings for damage and distributing food and hygiene kits, including medicines and medical accessories for people with disabilities and special needs.

The Council says: “Every time the Syrians awaken from calamity, they get struck by a new one, until they had become completely exhausted, living with memories of days of prosperity and peace.

“When Syria is wounded, the whole world bleeds with sorrow and pain. Hence, how can we heal Syria’s wounds so as to restore happiness to its people? The earthquake that struck Syria, and which had very bad effects on the people of Aleppo, Lattakia, Hama, and Jableh, was nothing but a continuation of the tragedies that this country has been experiencing for the past 12 years.”

The Act Alliance, a church aid coalition, has raised $8.4 million through its Syria appeal, which also includes those affected by the earthquake in Turkey. Its money is going towards providing “winterised” tents to help people to survive outdoors, and psychotherapy, and it is also reopening bakeries, which are crucial to food security.

The Alliance said that it had helped more than 200,000 people so far, but recovery for most would take years — and would be much slower in Syria than in Turkey, a spokesperson warned.

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