World Vision says the earthquake in Syria and Türkiye has created need greater than any other natural disaster the organisation has responded to in more than a decade.
The aid agency has more than 70 years of experience in responding to emergencies but says the scale of suffering as a result of this earthquake are uniquely devastating.
World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says the already dire conditions in Northwest Syria due to the ongoing war have been exacerbated by the earthquake’s devastation.
“The earthquake is serving up a cocktail of catastrophe from wide scale death, destruction and injuries and this combined with the pre-existing need in Northwest Syria following 12 years of conflict means the challenges are astronomical,” he says.
“We have not seen suffering and devastation of this scale in over a decade. The impact is so enormous that we fear it could take a generation for survivors to recover, and maybe longer in Northern Syria where millions were already living on humanitarian aid.
The earthquake’s impact in Northwest Syria is unique because four million people were already reliant on humanitarian aid prior last Monday's disaster.
Furthermore, access to this area was, and is, extremely constrained due to the dynamics of the current conflict.
World Vision’s Response Director for Syria Johan Mooij says over-crowding in temporary settlements is at crisis levels.
“Entire streets and villages have been reduced to rubble, whole families killed, and millions left homeless. People already living in extreme poverty have lost what little they had.
“Prior to the quakes, six or seven people were sharing tents because they had no home due to the conflict. Now it’s 16 or 17 people in each tent.
“Children have been traumatised and will need psychosocial and physical support to deal with the impact of this disaster,” he says.
Mooij says the earthquake has caused damage on such a phenomenal scale that it will take decades to rebuild.
“The amount of money and effort it will take to rebuild the structural damage could take a generation to get to pre-earthquake levels. This is especially the case in Northwest Syria where the humanitarian response plan has been consistently underfunded for most of the past 12 years.
“Hospitals and health clinics that survived the earthquake in Syria were already overstretched and underfunded – now they are unable to even keep the power on due to a lack of fuel,” he says.
Mooij says it’s essential that all governments provide adequate funding to meet the chronic needs of the people in Syria and Türkiye and to be more flexible than ever when it comes to granting access.
“Security Council resolutions have given the mandate to open these closed border crossings before and we need them reopened to facilitate aid into Syria.
“This isn’t a time for bureaucracy, it’s a time for humanity. Holding back will only worsen the impact – and considering how bad things are now – that is something we cannot afford to even imagine,” he says.
So far World Vision teams have already provided 17,000 litres of fuel to health facilities and search and rescue teams in Northwest Syria.
World Vision has also provided much needed heaters and fuel to impacted households seeking refuge in temporary shelters.
World Vision is working to distribute emergency relief items such as food, water, shelter and winterisation items, as well as medical supplies to health facilities struggling to respond to growing needs.
To donate to the appeal and help provide urgent supplies to children and families impacted by the earthquake, go to https://www.worldvision.org.nz/ or text RESPOND to 5055.