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Essential Medicines Arrive in Syria, Post-Earthquake

More than 64,000 doses of medication will support hospitals inundated with patients in northwestern Syria.


Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023

Emergency medical aid from Direct Relief arrives in Syria on February 14, 2023, where it will be distributed to health facilities operated by the Syrian American Medical Society, which provides care to multiple hospitals in northwestern Syria, (Photo courtesy of SAMS)

On Tuesday, 14 pallets of medical aid from Direct Relief arrived in Syria to support the medical efforts of the Syrian American Medical Society, which operates hospitals in northwestern Syria that have been inundated with patients following a deadly earthquake in the region last week.

The 6,800-pound shipment was trucked from Adana, Turkey, and transported into Syria, and contains more than 64,000 defined daily doses of requested antibiotics for infection treatment and other essential medicines.

Tuesday’s shipments are the latest to arrive in Syria, and Direct Relief currently has 22.5 tons of emergency medicines and supplies valued at $4.5M that is ready for shipment, en route or has arrived in the region. In addition to the Syrian American Medical Society, Direct Relief is also shipping medical support to the Independent Doctors’ Association and Syria Relief and Development, all of which support medical efforts in the country.
In the week since the initial quake, Direct Relief has disbursed $1.52 million in immediate emergency grant funding to enable and sustain the emergency response operations of seven local healthcare and search and rescue groups working across Turkey and northwestern Syria.

The death toll from the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria in the early hours on February 6 has now exceeded 40,000, and the head of the United Nations relief effort on the ground, Martin Griffiths, stated publicly that this total will likely double or more.

More than 24,000 buildings have been damaged or destroyed in the affected areas, and 8,400 of these structures have collapsed. In northwestern Syria 7,400 buildings have been damaged or destroyed, including 57 hospitals and primary health facilities damaged, and 1,700 of that total have collapsed.

Major concerns include emergency medical and surgical supplies for hospitals, disease outbreaks due to numbers of displaced people without shelter and access to proper water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and winterization needs, including for medical shelters.

After 12 years of conflict and an ongoing cholera outbreak, 4.1 million Syrians in the northwest already relied on some level of humanitarian assistance before the earthquake, with recent events overwhelming the capacity of local health facilities.

The UN estimated that almost 9 million people have been affected by the earthquake across Syria, and the Syrian American Medical Society has reported that many people are now exposed to the winter weather, lacking adequate shelter and that they are preparing for surges in communicable diseases and potentially cold-induced injuries.

“This shocking event in such an already devastated region has refocused the world’s attention on Syria, but the truth is the humanitarian situation in Syria was desperate and unsustainable even before the earthquake,” SAMS wrote in a statement on its website last week. “A series of challenges to the health sector: dwindling access, COVID-19 and a cholera outbreak across Syria all degraded a humanitarian environment, and these challenges are now exacerbated by this shocking natural disaster.”

SAMS had called on the United Nations to reopen all border crossings into northwest Syria to increase the flow of aid in response to the earthquake’s sweeping impacts. Direct Relief is supporting SAMS and other organizations primarily operational around northwestern Syria, in the catchment areas of Aleppo, Idleb, Lattakia, Hama governorates.

“In the coming weeks, Northwest Syria and those impacted in Turkey will need a level of aid unprecedented in the last few years of the conflict,” SAMS stated.

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