Depleting Supplies, Limited Communications Challenge Earthquake Response in Northwest Syria as Aid Efforts Get Underway
As earthquake response efforts get underway in Northwest Syria after the devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake, logistical challenges are multiplying: unreliable communications, dwindling supplies, limited shelter options, lacking coordination and information, and poor weather conditions.
There have already been 3,100 deaths in Northwest Syria as a result of the earthquake, as well as more than 1,700 collapsed or damaged buildings, with limited machinery to remove rubble. According to the UN, nearly 11 million people inside Syria have been affected by the earthquake. In Northwest Syria, at least 11,000 families are now displaced and only 5% of damaged sites are being covered by search and rescue efforts due to limited resources.
A Mercy Corps team member in Northwest Syria, whose identity is anonymous for security reasons, said upon returning from an affected community, “What sticks in my mind is that some people were standing above the rubble and hearing the voices of their families and relatives a few meters away, but they could not do anything to rescue them due to the lack of equipment and the absence of an international response to help in light of this disaster.”
Mercy Corps’ team on the ground is distributing 1,700 kits the organization had already pre-positioned - including blankets, mattresses, jerry cans, solar lanterns and other supplies - in 98 displacement camps and 136 communities in the Northwest.
Kieren Barnes, Mercy Corps’ Country Director for Syria, says:
“Supplies of goods inside of Northwest Syria are quickly depleting, and prices are likely to start skyrocketing. Even commercial suppliers with supply pipelines and transit routes from Turkey will face difficulty. We implore that border crossings remain open to both humanitarian aid and commercial supplies to enable markets to be stocked and available for organizations, including Mercy Corps, to procure aid within Northwest Syria.”
In addition to supplies, shelter is a priority need. Mercy Corps staff have observed many people sleeping in cars and staying in heavily damaged buildings. People don’t know where to go and there is extremely limited guidance or coordination on shelter options. Some mosques and schools are opening up small spaces for people to sleep in, but the information is by word of mouth and not centralized. Fuel for heating and cooking is also becoming a significant challenge. There is limited availability, and what is available is of poor quality and very expensive. People are burning trash to stay warm.
Alongside distributions of essential items, Mercy Corps’ team is inspecting damage to boreholes that people rely on for clean water as well as conducting needs assessments to inform supply procurement. Damaged water supply and treatment infrastructure, as well as damaged service roads, are causing poor water quality. Mercy Corps’ team has already tested 45 boreholes, finding 8 to be unusable and impacting clean water access for 10,000 people. Leakage of sewage and other pollutants into water sources may lead to a spread of waterborne illness, particularly as displacement camps become increasingly crowded. The team has resumed water trucking to displacement camps and communities.
Donations to Mercy Corps’ response efforts can be made here: https://www.mercycorps.org/donate/catastrophic-earthquake-strikes-syria