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Earthquakes that lasted seconds, have caused years of devastation
One month on from the devastating earthquakes to hit Turkey and Syria, Concern's Kieran McConville reflects on the challenges that lie ahead for people who have survived and pays tribute to the speed and effectiveness of his colleagues to respond.
Even for those on the ground in Turkey and Syria so badly hit by the earthquakes a month ago, it is difficult to comprehend the sheer level of devastation. When we first arrived in the city of Adiyaman, people were walking around the streets dazed, as the desperate search for survivors went on around them. As that search has wound down and the job of caring for the survivors takes priority, it’s evident that this will remain a serious humanitarian situation for many months, perhaps years, ahead.
Two weeks after the first earthquakes hit, another struck. At 6.8, it was substantial enough to cause more damage, death and injury, but worse still, it shattered any sense of confidence that had slowly been returning to the affected population. I had spent the day in the Aleppo region of north-west Syria, listening to traumatic stories from people already beaten down by years of war. Just a few hours later, their world was rocked again, literally, and I can only imagine how it has added to their suffering
It is overwhelming to see the levels of pain, suffering and grief that surround us. For those who survived the earthquakes, their livelihoods have in many cases been wiped out, and it is unclear if they will ever return home again.
My Concern colleagues in Turkey and our partner in Syria have been amazing in the speed and effectiveness of their response, delivering hot food, blankets, warm clothing, hygiene items and other essentials from day one. In some cases, they have been sleeping in their cars or in tents, as they help others. But their work has only just begun.
Huge numbers of buildings have been damaged beyond repair, leaving hundreds of thousands living under canvas or crowded into makeshift shelters, facing freezing conditions at night. This has meant our work to keep people safe and protected cannot happen fast enough. Temperatures dropping as low as -12˚C in some areas has added a layer of risk, and we are working around the clock to provide heaters and blankets. In the summer months ahead, they will face the opposite, with temperatures reaching up to 40˚C.
After the cameras leave and the headlines fade, our job will be to provide sustainable solutions for the millions of people who have been displaced.
Over the past number of weeks, the team has been working to assess those longer-term needs, expanding operations to ensure aid delivery is sustainable alongside supporting survivors in the immediate aftermath. The generous donations from the public to Concern's emergency appeal are supporting this and will fund our efforts for some time to come.
In the long term, programmes need to be established for those who have endured life-altering injuries, lost their homes, and lost their families. Concern is working around the clock with local partners in Turkey and Syria to meet the needs of survivors but we can only do this with your help.
I can tell you that the Concern teams here are hugely appreciative of the support they are getting, as they strive to expand this emergency response.
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