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Essential Medications Prepped for Earthquake-Ravaged Areas of Syria, Turkey

More than seven tons of medical aid is prepped and packed for health facilities and first responders in the impacted zones.


Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023

Damage is seen in Turkey, where more than 700 members of search and rescue organization AKUT, is responding. Direct Relief is supporting AKUT financially and with field medic packs. Critical medications have been packed for health facilities in the region. (Photo courtesy of AKUT)

The death toll continues to climb in Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake rocked the region earlier this week. More than 11,600 people have been killed in Turkey and Syria, and the World Health Organization said that number could exceed 20,000 people eventually.

Turkish government officials said at least 8,500 of those reported dead are in Turkey, with another 50,000 reported injured in the region. The quake is one of the strongest to rattle the area in a century, and more than 100 aftershocks rumbled through Turkey and Syria since the initial 7.8-magnitude quake occurred on Feb. 6.

In Syria, more than 2,500 are estimated to have been killed, and the impacted zone is split between rebel-held areas and government-held zones, which complicates humanitarian relief and coordination. Even before the earthquake, more than 4 million people were relying on some sort of humanitarian assistance, with the most recent disaster making them even more vulnerable to health risks. The country is also experiencing an active cholera outbreak, and more than a decade of civil conflict has weakened Syria’s health infrastructure.

A Race Against Time

The critical window 72-hour post-earthquake window for search and rescue is rapidly closing, and rescue teams from Turkish Search and Rescue group AKUT are actively responding to impact sites. AKUT has more than 700 members and received a $100,000 infusion of financial support from Direct Relief this week.

More than 111 people have been rescued by the group, according to an online update from AKUT.

With thousands of buildings collapsed or destroyed, with many as high as 15 stories, the death count is still coming into focus, said AKUT’s Dr.Gülçin Güreşçi. She said that over 13 million people have been directly impacted by the earthquake.

“We know that the number will be higher. People are still waiting to be rescued under the cold weather and snowfall. We have very little time to reach them before they go into hypothermia.”

In addition to hypothermia risks, other immediate medical concerns include trauma and crush injuries and wounds where a delay in care could lead to more infections. Interrupted supplies of clean water are also a concern, as are issues with chronic disease complications. The electrical grid has also been disrupted, hindering hospital operations.

Earthquakes create a huge spike in the need for health services with all the injuries, even as there is a huge contraction of available health services. At the same time, there is often an information vacuum and breaking of the supply channels through which resources can be moved efficiently to address the huge gap that develops.

This scenario means that huge gaps immediately arise with fewer channels available to address them. Damaged roads and bridges have caused supply chain disruptions, with the UN-sanctioned border crossing Bab al-Hawa between Turkey and Syria currently closed.

An Infusion of Medical Support

Air charter shipments were prepared on Wednesday for multiple groups responding in the region, including the Syrian American Medical Society, Syrian Relief and Development, and the Independent Doctor’s Association.

Emergency medicines were staged, including antibiotics, chronic disease medications for high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma, prenatal vitamins, diagnostic and surgical equipment, wound care dressings, PPE and more.

More than 100 field medic backpacks with medical supplies for triage care are included in the shipments and personal care kits with hygiene items for people who have been displaced from their homes.

Medical aid is staged for earthquake response on February 8, 2023, for departure to Turkey and Syria. (Brea Burkholz/Direct Relief)

Wednesday’s shipments included therapeutics for cholera patients, including oral rehydration salts to prevent dehydration, which can become deadly in cholera patients, particularly in young children.

In addition to the medical aid prepared, Direct Relief was able to issue $100,000 to the Syrian American Medical Society this week, part of which was used for generator fuel to power hospital operations and fuel for ambulance response.

“Our hospitals are overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways,” according to a statement from the Syrian American Medical Society. “There is an immediate need for trauma supplies and a comprehensive emergency response to save lives and treat the injured.”

“Across our operational facilities, we’ve been receiving victims of the quake as they come into our hospitals while simultaneously working to guarantee the wellbeing of our over 1,700 staff in Syria, and 90 at the epicenter near Gaziantep, Turkey,” said SAMS’ President Dr. Amjad Rass.

Many hospitals are full, the group reported, but some critical facilities, including Al Dana Hospital, had to evacuate patients after sustaining severe damage from the earthquake. “Likewise, the Idleb Maternity Hospital was forced to transfer all newborns to a nearby hospital. Additionally, we have since evacuated an additional two hospitals to maintain the safety of patients and staff and protect them from the damage caused by the quake,” the group reported.

Direct Relief’s response to the earthquake is ongoing.

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