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Quake survivors in Turkey and Syria are facing secondary disaster

Quake survivors in Turkey and Syria are facing secondary disaster

Posted February. 15, 2023 07:33,   

Updated February. 15, 2023 07:33


“I can’t think of feeding myself; I just struggle to find any food I can give my children.”

Mr. Zanief Omak, a survivor of the quake-hit city of Kahramanmaras, Turkey, said to the New York Times. He was digging through the rubble in search of clothes and food with his 9 and 14-year-old children to survive the cold. When a strong earthquake struck the city late at night a week ago, Omak’s family evacuated the apartment building in their nightgown and pajamas.

Over one million people in Turkey have lost their homes and are staying in makeshift shelters. Survivors do not have enough food and water to keep themselves alive in the bitter cold. They are now on the brink of catching infectious diseases due to poor sanitation, facing a secondary disaster. The United Nations stated that it was time to focus on survivors than rescuing those who were missing.

Survivors are suffering from cholera, skin diseases, and trauma. Makeshift shelters are built on the hard ground with tarpaulins and boards to form some sort of roof. Severe shortages of tents, clothes, and medical supplies are exacerbating the disaster. “There are not enough tents, so my family and I are sleeping on the mud floor,” Mr. Zera Kurukappa told the Associated Press. The temperature in the area affected by the earthquake dipped to minus 6 degrees Celcius.

In some quake-stricken areas, infectious diseases, such as scabies, skin disease, coronavirus, and cholera, are spreading. AFP reported that highly contagious scabies are spreading in Adiyaman, a city in southeastern Turkey, and many children are suffering from diarrhea. The Turkish health authority stated that at least 19,300 people are hospitalized, 3,636 of which are in intensive care units. It is reported that many patients are lying outside tents as there are not enough hospital beds.

The number of children suffering from trauma after disaster is increasing. Serkan Tadoglu lost 10 relatives in the earthquake, but he has no time to grieve, because his daughter is showing signs of trauma. “My six-year-old daughter keeps asking, ‘Daddy, are we going to die?’ 'Where are our relatives?' I didn’t show her the body of our relatives. We hugged our daughter and said, ‘It will be all right,’” he told AFP.

Nearly a week after an earthquake rocked the country, the death toll has risen above 37,000, and miracle rescues continue. In Kahramanmas, the earthquake's epicenter, a 10-year-old girl was rescued from a torn-down apartment in 185 hours. In Adiyaman, a rescue worker put an oxygen mask on a young girl who was rescued from the rubble in 178 hours and promised her strawberry milk and poacha, Turkey’s traditional bread. In Hatay and Antakya, an adult male, teenage brothers, and a 12-year-old child were rescued alive under rubble 180 hours after the earthquake hit the city.

However, the rescue operation has practically entered the final stage. Martin Griffiths, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, visited Aleppo, Syria, and said the search and rescue for survivors are nearing an end, and now a priority should be to provide shelter, psychological and social care, food and education to displaced people.