Syria and Turkey: Efforts to rebuild continue five months after quake

In February, devastating earthquakes hit southern Turkey and northwestern Syria, dramatically affecting the lives of some 15 million people.

Five months on, much still needs to be done in the affected areas but progress is slowly being made.

The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates about four million children are still in need of humanitarian assistance and 1.6 million are living in tents or other temporary shelters, some without access to water.

UNICEF Representative in Turkey, Paolo Manci, said: “We’ve passed through drama – through the catastrophic images that probably everybody saw – to rebuilding.”

The needs are even greater for those outside the cities where people are traumatised and doctors and psychologists are in huge demand.

“We have very good partners,” explained Manci, “as well as people who specialise in earthquake injuries. Fortunately, there are opportunities here that are not always available in other countries.”

It is a similar picture in rebel-held northwestern Syria.  People, who were living in camps before the quakes are still there and some of the wounded are still waiting for proper treatment.

Volunteers with the Syrian humanitarian group, the “White Helmets,” also known as the “Syria Civil Defence” have been working to help communities in need. 

Ismail Abdullah is one of their volunteers.  

“We don’t have the kind of support that every family may need to overcome this trauma. They need more specialised people to help them.”

The volunteers for the “White Helmets” non-governmental organisation are working to clear rubble, help people get out of areas, equip camps and build roads to help vehicles access the camps.

But they say bombing is hampering relief efforts and only 10-20 per cent of people’s needs are being met.

“If we can help them go back to their houses, helping them not to stay in the camps … this is the urgent need,” said Abdullah.

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