Syria Earthquake: MSF Expands Relief Response, Establishes Mobile Clinics – Syrian Arab Republic

“The earthquakes have exacerbated the already dire situation of people in north-western Syria.”

At 4.17am on the morning of February 6, Mohammad* and his family were jolted awake by the first of two massive earthquakes that shook much of northwestern Syria and southern Turkey (officially renamed Türkiye).

“When the earthquakes shook all the buildings, my wife and I took our children and ran to the schoolyard,” Mohammad said. “We stood in the rain and were horrified at the devastation we could see around us. Buildings had collapsed and people were trapped inside. The situation was tragic.”

Mohammad and his family were living at a school in Azmarin in Syria’s northern Idlib province after fleeing the conflict near their home in Jabal Al Zawiya, some 40 miles away.

The earthquakes wreaked havoc, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries and leaving many people without shelter, food or other basic needs. The disaster worsened an already desperate humanitarian situation. More than 180,000 people have been displaced by the tremors, adding to the two million people already living in difficult and vulnerable conditions after being repeatedly displaced during the 12-year war.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are responding to the medical and humanitarian needs of the people following the disaster. Initially, we focused on strengthening the emergency response capacity of local medical teams and donating essential medicines and medical supplies to health facilities and rescue teams. Today, MSF has expanded its activities in north-west Syria, running four mobile clinics and distributing essential supplies such as mattresses, hygiene items, cleaning materials and kitchen utensils.

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After hours in the cold rain, Mohammad and his family found shelter under some olive trees. Two days later, still shocked by what had happened, they took to the streets to seek refuge along with other people who had been made homeless by the quake. “We kept walking until we reached this reception center,” Mohammad said. “They helped us and took us in.”

Mobile clinics and supplies

In Idlib, Syria, MSF teams have so far conducted 5,667 medical consultations and distributed nearly 31,000 relief items. In the mobile clinics, medical professionals provide wound care, general medical care, chronic disease care, sexual and reproductive health care, psychological support and vaccinations for children.

“The earthquakes have exacerbated the already dire situation of people in north-western Syria, where many people live in overcrowded and inadequate conditions with limited access to medical care,” said Dr. Ziad Marzouk, chronic disease specialist and member of MSF’s mobile clinic team. “The mobile clinics provide basic medical care to those who need it most.”

More aid is urgently needed in north-west Syria

The disaster has highlighted the urgent need for humanitarian assistance in north-west Syria and has brought to light a forgotten crisis in the region. Despite the aid that has reached some areas in recent days, there is a huge unmet need for shelter, drinking water, washing facilities and heating equipment. People also lack access to health care at a time when the quakes are having a huge impact on people’s mental well-being.

“It is important that humanitarian aid does not diminish within weeks after the earthquakes, but increases and increases,” said Yasser Kamaledin, MSF’s head of operations in Syria. “The earthquakes have posed new challenges to people’s ability to access basic needs, including medical care. So far, in the two weeks since the earthquake, humanitarian aid has come too little and too slowly in north-west Syria. International assistance urgently needs to be scaled up to protect the lives and dignity of people in the affected areas.”

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Like many others, Mohammad and his family struggle to get through the cold winter nights with no mattresses to sleep on or electricity for light and warmth.

“During the war, we left our homes not knowing what was going to happen and thinking we’d be back in a few days,” Mohammad said. “Instead, we stopped at nothing. Now, after the earthquake, the same thing happened. People try to help each other wherever they can, but at least we need mattresses to sleep on and light because there is no electricity. All the families here are left with nothing.”

*Name changed to protect anonymity.