Action Against Hunger is prioritizing health, hygiene, food, and shelter support in the wake of devastating earthquakes
TORONTO, ON – Feb. 15, 2023 – Within a few hours of the magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes that shook southeastern Türkiye and northern Syria last week, Action Against Hunger mobilized to respond.
“Right now, we are working to meet the urgent needs for food, hygiene products, clothing, blankets, and cookstoves. Our teams are supporting community kitchens near the epicenter of the earthquake, helping 3,000 people get three meals each day,” says Lucía Villamayor, Emergency Coordinator for Action Against Hunger, who is on the ground in Türkiye. “Together with our partner organization in Türkiye, Support to Life, we are also creating a broader, holistic support program that will include mental health and psychosocial support.”
When disaster strikes, water sources are often contaminated, putting people at an increased risk of disease and other serious health concerns. To prevent outbreaks and protect health, the top humanitarian priorities currently include shelter, water, sanitation, and hygiene.
“Action Against Hunger’s technical knowledge and expertise in water, sanitation, hygiene, food security, and shelter are really useful for Support to Life to run more effective humanitarian operations,” explains Gözde Kazaz, Communications Officer for Support to Life, a Turkish humanitarian organization working on the ground and supported by Action Against Hunger, who added, “The most important needs include diapers, hygiene kits, heaters, and lighting.”
In towns devastated by the earthquakes, Action Against Hunger is distributing supply kits designed to cover the population’s immediate needs.
“In the short term, this humanitarian assistance allows us to offer a certain sense of normalcy to people, be it with sanitation kits, child protection, and food baskets, as well as clothing, cookstoves, and tents,” says Cristina Izquierdo, Nutrition and Health Coordinator for Action Against Hunger’s emergency team.
Our teams are also delivering food baskets that include basic items to cover the caloric needs of the population, including rice, oil, honey, and legumes. We are working with local communities to add fresh food and other locally popular foods to the baskets.
Earthquake Victims Seek Shelter and Security Key
“In Türkiye and Syria, people who have lost their homes in the earthquakes face extremely cold temperatures and winter storms while living outside in tents or cars,” says Izquierdo.
Action Against Hunger is helping to establish shelters to protect displaced people from harsh winter weather. We are also distributing supplies like cookstoves, blankets, and mats. With so many buildings damaged in the earthquakes, it is a struggle to find spaces that are structurally sound and safe for habitation.
“We have zero tolerance for infrastructure in poor condition or for buildings that have not been previously evaluated,” explains Luís Álvarez, Logistics Coordinator for Action Against Hunger’s emergency team. “It is much safer to be in spaces where you are not exposed and to stay in containers, ground-floor buildings, or heated store buildings, because cold is also a huge risk right now. We must also be wary of electrical wiring and other potential damage caused by the earthquake.”
Increased Hunger and Health Challenges in Syria
Before the earthquake, Syria has one of the world’s highest rates of hunger. Now, with food and livelihoods even harder to access, the risk of widespread food insecurity is skyrocketing. Action Against Hunger is scaling up our work to prevent hunger by restoring vital health, nutrition, water, sanitation, and hygiene systems and services.
“Health care providers are overwhelmed trying to help earthquake survivors,” says Haidi Sadik, Deputy Director for Action Against Hunger in Syria. “We are supporting ambulances and our teams have distributed essential medical supplies to Aleppo’s largest hospitals to make emergency and trauma surgery possible.”
Action Against Hunger has been working in Syria since 2008. In 2021, our teams reached more than one million people in Syrian communities affected by multiple crises with water, sanitation, hygiene, health, nutrition, food security, and support programs for livelihoods, working both on emergency interventions and supporting long-term resilience building.
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