Words by Alice Jefferson
At ShelterBox, we’ve responded to many earthquakes around the world since being formed in 2000, but the scale of devastation that we’ve seen in Türkiye and Syria has surpassed many of them. Whole cities have been destroyed, 12-storey buildings completely levelled, making the humanitarian response spanning two countries hugely complex. At least two million people have lost their homes in Türkiye and more than 80,000 people in Syria have been displaced – many not for the first time. As a charity that specialises in emergency shelter, our response teams in southern Türkiye have been visiting affected areas, finding out what and where the shelter gaps are and where we can get aid in.
Although it can be really challenging getting the right aid into countries after a disaster of this size, we strategically pre-position crucial supplies all over the world to help disaster affected communities as quickly as we can. Ten days in and ShelterBox aid is already in Türkiye and Syria, including essential items such as tents, blankets, mattresses, and winter coats for children, with more on the way; items that might seem basic, but for people surviving through this ongoing nightmare is a start, protecting them from the winter weather, preventing the spread of disease and providing some privacy as they get back on their feet.
The logistics of getting aid where it is needed is complicated and it can be time-consuming. With the search and rescue effort almost at an end, we are expecting already busy supply lines to get congested, so we are trying to get aid in as quickly as we can, working with local authorities, agencies and partners, including Rotarians. We have experience in successfully getting aid into hard-to-reach areas of northern Syria from our work over the last ten years, and we’re expanding on this expertise to help families affected by the earthquakes.
More than 45,000 people have died across Syria and Türkiye and the death toll is rising every day. Behind every statistic are people who need our help, including in very hard to reach, conflict affected regions. Three million people were already displaced by the war in Syria, and this disaster has left many of them without shelter again. Not only that, but facing thousands of aftershocks, a cholera outbreak, water shortages, and rising frustrations. The bitter weather presents an immediate risk to life to people who survived the earthquakes. ShelterBox will be helping people over the coming days, weeks, and months with tangible aid – help that is possible because of our supporters.
Alice Jefferson is the Head of Emergency Responses at the international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox. ShelterBox has an emergency fundraising appeal to help people affected by the earthquakes and other disasters around the world.