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Delivering Urgently Needed Meds to Help Earthquake-Impacted Turkey, Syria

Direct Relief is preparing more than 25 pallets of medical supplies from its facilities in the US and Europe for Turkey and Syria in response to specific requests from on-the-ground responders.


Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023

HATAY, TURKEY - FEBRUARY 07: Smoke billows from the Iskenderun Port as rescue workers work at the scene of a collapsed building on February 07, 2023 in Iskenderun, Turkey. A 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit near Gaziantep, Turkey, in the early hours of Monday, followed by another 7.5-magnitude tremor just after midday. The quakes caused widespread destruction in southern Turkey and northern Syria and were felt in nearby countries. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

With the death toll in Turkey and Syria climbing rapidly after a catastrophic earthquake struck the region less than 48 hours ago, Direct Relief is mobilizing significant quantities of medical aid in response to specific requests from on-the-ground responders.

At least 4,000 people in Turkey and 1,500 people in Syria are reported dead, and the number of casualties is expected to rise significantly as rescue workers continue the search for survivors.

To help meet the urgent needs on the ground, Direct Relief is preparing more than 25 pallets (approximately one semi-truck full) of medical supplies from its facilities in the US and Europe for Turkey and Syria.

Items include medication and supplies to treat people with injuries and pre-existing medical conditions, such as field medic packs, antibiotics and other essential medicines, as well as oral rehydration solutions and hygiene items for those displaced from their homes.

The shipments follow $200 thousand in grants issued Monday by Direct Relief to support search and rescue efforts — $100k each to AKUT (Turkish Search & Rescue Team) and Syrian American Medical Society.

Injury and Disease Risks From Earthquakes

Harsh weather, including snow and rain, is hindering search and rescue operations in various locations and causing flight disruptions across a number of airports, including Istanbul.

People whose homes were destroyed in the quake are particularly vulnerable to hypothermia and other exposure-related conditions.

In an earthquake’s aftermath, people often become ill due to their lack of shelter, compromised water and sanitation systems, lack of refrigeration, and untreated injuries. These circumstances can lead to bacterial infections and disease outbreaks among people forced into temporary shelters. People also frequently lose access to the medicine they need to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and mental health issues.

Initial reports indicate as many as 2,818 buildings have collapsed in Turkey, with the most affected districts including Malatya, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Adıyaman, Osmaniye, Diyarbakır, Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis, Adana.

The Turkish Ministry of Health is reporting at least 15 hospitals were significantly damaged by the earthquake – about half of all hospitals located in the severe impact zones.

In northwest Syria, a region already impacted by a deadly cholera outbreak and home to 4.1 million people who rely on varying levels of humanitarian assistance, the earthquake adds further devastation.

Based on the most recent data, the outbreak that began on August 25, 2022, has seen 84,607 suspect cases, with just over a 2% positivity rate. More than 100 were attributed to cholera, with a case fatality rate of .12%. Without clean water and due to crowded conditions resulting from the quake, those numbers may climb.

Aleppo, which is both one of the hardest hit cities by the earthquake on the Syrian side and mired in conflict, has recorded one of the highest totals of suspect cases at 19,438 as of January 21 – accounting for just over 22% of the total cases – and 46 deaths, roughly half of all attributed cholera deaths.

Direct Relief dispatched a shipment of cholera treatment medication and supplies to Syria two weeks ago, which are now needed in even more significant quantities.

Ensuring Efficiency and Avoiding Bottlenecks

Following best practices for responding to major disasters, Direct Relief is mobilizing its medical aid deliveries in coordination with local officials and agencies to ensure efficiency and avoid the bottlenecks that often occur when efforts to bring in personnel and material assistance converge in an area with damaged infrastructure.

Over the next several weeks, the priority will be to bolster the availability of medical items needed to treat traumatic injuries caused by falling debris, crush injuries, fractures, and lacerations and to support search and rescue activities.

A continued flow of primary care items to help people with chronic health conditions will also be necessary, especially while local resources are reallocated for emergency response.

Direct Relief is committed to providing critical medical aid to affected communities and will continue to provide updates and respond as the situation evolves.

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