Turkey-Syria Earthquake

Turkey-Syria Earthquake occurred on February 6 – the date that has been marked as a day of grief for many. The deadliest earthquake since Japan’s Fukushima, with a registered magnitude of 7.8 claimed over 40’000 lives in Southern Turkey and Northern Syria and displaced millions. In Syria alone, more than five million people are in dire need of shelter. Meanwhile, the true number of people who have gone missing is still unknown.

Both countries have been massively affected triggering an acute humanitarian crisis. However, the situation in Syria has been further complicated by the country’s specific circumstances. Failing as a state under global economic sanctions and burdened by war and the refugee crisis, serving the populations in need has become a real challenge for the country.

Currently, the immediate priority for the international community is to provide access to medicine, food, and shelter for those affected. However, hundreds of thousands of lives will stay impacted for many years as survivors mourn the loss of loved ones and start to rebuild their lives.

Turkey

The Turkish government has been broadly criticized for its lack of disaster preparedness and response. Those trying to reach disaster and emergency authorities had no success and in the immediate aftermath of the Turkey-Syria earthquake, no military arrived to support the affected areas. Others claimed that the government hadn’t sent professional equipment or specialized teams to the emergency sites, leaving inexperienced civilians to handle the situation.

What is more, the Turkish government and mainly the president have been heavily criticized for being overly concentrated on political censorship and goals. Many pointed out that Twitter was banned for hours following the disaster, limiting the ability of survivors to post and share their location or call for help. Some were even arrested for so-called provocative posts related to the earthquake. The official announcement states that these measures served to combat disinformation. However, the way the country sorts its priorities remains dubious.

Turkey’s infrastructure practices have also come under question. Located between two tectonic plates and having historically been forced to deal with earthquakes, one would expect the country to be stricter in terms of its construction standards, compliance, and execution. However, many argue that the government has been turning the blind eye to the regulations making the country more vulnerable to natural disasters. This is said to be the reason why so many buildings got demolished within the disaster area. Even the ones standing are not considered safe by locals.

Things don’t seem to appear easy on the country’s economic standing either. With pre-existing economic and political difficulties as well as tangled macroeconomic policies, Turkey might face real challenges with the recovery. According to JP Morgan, the destruction of physical infrastructure only measures approximately 25$ bn and 2.5% of the country’s GDP. EBRD reports that the potential economic impact of this disaster could imply a 1% loss of Turkey’s GDP this year. This is a piece of really bad news considering the country’s slowed GDP growth earlier in 2022 as well. The real cost of the devastating Turkey-Syria earthquake will remain unknown for a while, though.

Syria

The degree of resource and aid mobilization has been significantly poor for those affected by the disaster in Syria. The Turkey-Syria earthquake was felt in various areas held by different groups with the opposition-controlled Northwest being affected the most. The region had already barely standing infrastructure, thus the emergency only deepened the existing humanitarian crisis. Although the catastrophe was natural, the response to its ramifications has been heavily affected by long-standing political polarization. In addition, counter-terrorism measures and sanctions have been restricting the delivery of aid.

In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the Syrian government got the support from UN as well as other states. However, this was not true for the country’s Northwest part. Being controlled by rebels and former Al-Qaeda members, relief delivery has proved challenging for this area, unlike government-ruled territories.

It took days for the first humanitarian convoy to reach Northwest Syria. The items delivered were minimal and not even close to the number of aid supplies needed. Other convoys have been held due to “approval issues”. Some faced challenges with the infrastructure and the delivery. The single border crossing point has not been sufficient to channel the aid.

The situation has been even worse in terms of search and rescue operations with technical teams being unable to enter the area. Rather, the efforts were made by volunteers with no specialized equipment.  The international community has been facing the dilemma, forced to choose between aid instrumentalization and supporting those in real need.

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