Today marks one year since the deadly 7.8 and 7.7 magnitude earthquakes in southern Turkey and northwest Syria. The earthquakes wreaked havoc on the lives of millions, causing death, horrible injuries, displacement, and destruction. Over 50,000 people were killed, tens of thousands were injured, and millions became displaced.
In northwest Syria, the earthquakes and aftershocks caused devastation and destruction to an area already in a humanitarian crisis, adding a crisis upon an existing crisis to over 4.5 million people in the region.
UOSSM was on the ground responding immediately to the thousands of injuries, despite many of UOSSM’s staff being affected by the earthquake through death of family members, injuries, or losing their homes. The workload was heavy, yet UOSSM’s dedicated staff realized and understood the dire situation, and chose to support their community regardless of their personal situations.
Dr. Mouhib Qaddour, a surgeon at a UOSSM hospital said, “It was a terrible day, at the early morning hours, our home was shaking, moments were passing slowly, a state of mind loss, as a parent I could not know to what room to go to save what child, the older or the younger, the boy or the girl, what if I saved one and couldn’t manage to reach the other… An hour later I was in the hospital answering the call for the emergency response, for a few days and nights my colleagues and I were working non-stop to save as many lives as possible.”
UOSSM expresses its deepest gratitude to all those who joined in solidarity to ensure precious lives were saved, including friends, partners, generous donors, colleagues, and the press who helped shed light on the dire situation while encouraging people to engage, support, and donate.
Thanks to that support, UOSSM provided over 80,000 health-related services to over 50,000 earthquake survivors. Thousands of those services were lifesaving major surgeries, vital health care services, humanitarian aid, and psychological support.
Dr. Ghanem Tayara, president of UOSSM International said, “I remember my visit of last February to Turkey and northwest Syria, the conditions seen by one’s eyes were beyond what images could show, the level of destruction, the pain and suffering, the tears and screams…however, it was also remarkable the level of commitment of the humanitarian workers, of the entire population, and on global level of our friends and partners who all stood side-by-side supporting one another. Search operations for people under destroyed building continued for weeks, the medical team was alerted for over seven weeks, partners and friends demonstrated what humanity can best offer, today in the first anniversary I call on all to maintain the same level of commitment because the needs are still very much there.”
The region remains in dire conditions after over a decade of war that led to a humanitarian crisis. With over 4.5 million people in the region, many are displaced and living in displacement camps, with little access to food, water, healthcare, and other essential necessities. People are still in need of medical and mental healthcare, rehabilitation, and other crucial services. UOSSM continues to respond to the humanitarian crisis by providing medical and humanitarian relief to the most vulnerable.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, President of UOSSM USA said, “The earthquakes were truly devastating, seeing the extent of human suffering was extremely painful. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families as they remember this sad day. It was endearing to see the whole world come together to support the most vulnerable in their darkest and most difficult times. I am extremely proud of our team on the ground that kept going, supporting others, while their own lives were affected, and I am so grateful to everyone who supported our work as we responded immediately on the ground.
Since last year, many communities have been going through devastating crises including natural and man-made disasters, our hearts go out to all those victims, as we continue to support them, and save lives with medical and humanitarian relief.”