In the early hours of Monday February 7th, millions of people woke up to a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Southern Turkey (Türkiye) and Northwest Syria. Hours later, a second earthquake of a similar magnitude struck, bringing widespread destruction and loss of life. With over 1,100 staff working locally, GOAL teams are on the ground supporting communities affected. Aleksander Milutinovic, reports from Turkey as emergency response teams race against the clock to saves lives.
By Alek Milutinovic, GOAL’s Country Director in Turkey
It’s a terrible tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes. The destruction has been widespread, affecting almost 13 million people across Turkey and Syria. Over 17,000 people have tragically lost their lives, an alarming number that is expected to rise in the coming days. Thousands more are seriously injured or trapped under the rubble.
Search and Rescue
The search and rescue operations are still ongoing. Every second is vital. We are desperately hoping to rescue more people. Unfortunately, with every passing hour, our chances diminish. The disaster is beyond anything we have ever seen. But we won’t give up. We can’t leave anyone behind. Working closely with Turkish authorities, local communities and NGO partners, we are working around the clock to save lives.
Delivering Humanitarian Aid
Across the border in northwest Syria, GOAL teams are continuing to work with global partners to deliver life-saving humanitarian aid. With the Syrian conflict now in its 12th year, millions of people were heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance even before the earthquakes struck. Worryingly, the only border crossing that international aid can pass through is currently inaccessible due to significant road damage. The situation for affected communities in Syria is increasingly desperate.
Conflict in Syria has driven displacement for over 10 years. In desperation many displaced communities have been living in temporary shelters and tents. Most of these homes have now collapsed and families are struggling to escape the cold. People were already in desperate need there, and these earthquakes have further magnified that. GOAL teams are continuing to work with local communities to provide food, water, warm clothing and shelter but aid stocks are limited. We need to get more in as soon as possible.
Part of the Local Community
For over 10 years GOALies have worked in the region. Our staff have become part of their local communities. GOAL teams have worked in northwest Syria since 2012, delivering aid and support across Idleb and Northern Aleppo. GOAL has also been implementing refugee response programmes in Turkey since 2016, in the country’s southeast provinces of Adana, Gaziantep, Hatay, and Şanlıurfa. Over 900 GOAL staff were working in Syria and over 250 in Turkey when the earthquakes struck.
As colleagues seek to support local communities in the rescue efforts, many are also victims of this disaster. This tragedy is very close to GOAL’s heart. Tragically, we know we have already lost some staff. Many have lost their entire families in this disaster. Others are missing and we are trying to reach them. It is truly devastating.
Making a Difference
As temperatures plummet below freezing, we are racing against the clock to find survivors and provide assistance to families made homeless by the earthquakes. We’re ramping up our assistance, working with our NGO partners and local authorities to support those most in need.
People ran out of their homes in the middle of the night when the earthquake struck at 4am. They fled in terror with nothing but the clothes on their back. People lost everything.
It will take years to rebuild, but for now we need to focus on saving lives. We need to help families to survive the winter. For that we need to provide more clothes, warm food and clean water. We need the support of the global community.
You can support Alek’s team and GOAL’s emergency response in Turkey and Syria with a donation today.