Survivors of earthquakes in Turkey and Syria face ‘staggering’ catastrophe. Here’s how you can help
Lucas Bozzo was working and living in Gaziantep, Turkey, when two powerful earthquakes struck the region on Monday.
The fallout has left many on the ground without adequate shelter, adequate food and clean water, Bozzo, who grew up in Toronto, told CBC News. Makeshift tent cities full of people displaced from their homes have formed amid aftershocks and cold weather.
“It’s difficult to gauge needs because they change,” Bozzo said.
“It needs food and water, then blankets, heaters, gas. And it all depends on the location that is being considered.”
He urges Canadians to do whatever they can to help survivors who are in dire need of help.
Officials in Turkey have said at least 13.5 million people have been affected. The tremors have hit millions more in north-west Syria. Relief efforts in this region have been hampered by the ongoing civil war.
Local organizations such as GlobalMedic Disaster Relief in Etobicoke have spent the week doing everything in their power to raise funds and collect essential items to send to affected regions.
“It’s staggering the catastrophic scale of this,” Rahul Singh, Executive Director of GlobalMedic, told CBC Toronto.
“And the key is to decentralize and go into different areas and provide life support like safe drinking water, shelter, food, access to health care and all the basics that people need.”
GlobalMedic has already set up a number of field hospitals and emergency shelters in Turkey, Singh said. The organization is making it a priority to bring clean water to kitchens so they can provide safe food to people.
Singh outlined a number of ways people in Ontario can support their efforts, the first of which is to visit the GlobalMedic website to donate money.
He also calls on people to volunteer to help put together relief packages and amplify GlobalMedic’s efforts on social media.
Syrian survivors are neglected by the local government
Marwa Khobeih, executive director of the Syria Canadian Foundation in Mississauga, told CBC Toronto the situation for the people of northern Syria is worse because they have been abandoned by their government.
The living conditions in this region were already very bad before the earthquake caused by the Syrian civil war, she said.
“Unfortunately, after the earthquake, they have no access to relief services,” Khobieh said. “The White Helmets, these are the Syrian civil defenders, they really need equipment, they need diesel to rescue the families and pull them out from under the rubble.”
The best way to support the people of Syria is to donate directly to local Syrian organizations like The White Helmets or Molham Team, she said.
Archdiocese collects donations
The Archdiocese of Toronto is also calling for donations for earthquake survivors in Turkey and Syria.
Spokesman Neil MacCarthy told CBC Toronto that donations to the archdiocese would go directly to their Catholic partners in the regions.
“When we have a disaster in some part of the world, we work with partners, Catholic partners, who have a long history of working with local communities to help with the recovery in both the short and long term,” he said.
MacCarthy stressed that donations would help everyone in need, regardless of their religious background.
“It’s there to help the people who need it most,” he said, adding that donations can be made on the archdiocese’s website.
And outside of the GTA, Juneyt Yetkiner has teamed up with the Turkish Cultural and Folklore Society of Canada to organize fundraisers in Southwestern Ontario.
Yetkiner, a musician of Turkish descent from Waterloo, Ontario, knew he had to act after learning of the devastation in his homeland.
“These are condos, big condos that have hundreds of people living in them. They’re all rubble,” he told CBC Toronto. “Some cities you can’t see. The whole city is flat.”
He has established a central hub for relief efforts in southwestern Ontario. On weekdays, donations from across the region can be brought to the Forest Heights Community Center in Waterloo.
Once a week, Yetkiner drives donations in kind to the Turkish consulate in Toronto, which are then flown directly to Turkey.
He also encourages people to make monetary donations on the Ahbap Association website.
As for Bozzo, he recognizes the importance of donations but warns they are only a short-term solution.
“The underlying cause of human suffering here … has a lot to do with poverty and has a lot to do with the material conditions that made possible the devastation of the earthquake,” he said.
In addition to more immediate support for earthquake survivors, he is calling on the Canadian government to help with longer-term solutions that would help the region deal with similar disasters in the future.
“It’s a disaster,” he said.
“Not only in terms of human suffering, but also logistically, it’s a disaster.”