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By Christina Georgaki
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The UK stands ready to help as we move from rescue to recovery in Turkey and Syria

4 min read

The immense scale of the devastation caused by last week’s deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria is still difficult to comprehend.

Ten days on, the situation remains critical. Each day we are reminded of the heartbreak, loss of life and scenes of the vulnerable forced to contend with freezing conditions and the prospect of little to no access to shelter and warmth as homes have been destroyed.  

The moment this awful crisis struck, the UK sprung into action, standing up a truly cross-government response, focussing on effective delivery on the ground. The UK’s International Search and Rescue team, comprising of 77 search and rescue experts, 4 dogs and equipment were deployed at the start of last week and since arriving, the team have rescued multiple people trapped under the rubble, including a 2-year-old girl and a 90-year-old woman. We’ve heard of stories of immense bravery, those who have so valiantly crawled through tunnels of debris, detecting possible signs of life, providing hope to those who have lost so very much. 

But alongside stories of near-miraculous rescues, images broadcast live around the world have highlighted the tragedy and spurred the UK and our international partners to work harder and faster, at home and overseas, in response to the immense challenges. Across both Turkey and Syria, the priority is to respond to humanitarian needs resulting from the earthquake and look at all options to mobilise further the UK and international support, to ensure that aid reaches all those in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Images broadcast live around the world have highlighted the tragedy and spurred the UK and our international partners to work harder and faster

The UK stands ready to help those affected as we move into a new phase of this disaster. Over the past week we have sent thousands of life-saving items on to Turkey and north west Syria, including tents and thermal blankets. A UK medical facility, co-located with Turkish service providers, has also started treating patients in Türkoğlu. In north west Syria, the UN has been distributing pre-positioned aid, such as food and other essential items; additionally UK partners have been responding, providing immediate medical care through their mobile medical teams and health centres. Recognising the scale of suffering that existed before the earthquake, the UK was and remains a supporter of UN and NGO efforts. 

The situation in Syria, of course, is far more complex. We welcomed news earlier this week that the UN has reached an agreement with the Syria’s Assad regime to open two more border crossings. These access points should make a big difference; but the test will be in the delivery. It is vital that the UN is able to deliver aid swiftly via these border crossings and we will be working with the UN to verify that this is happening on the terms agreed, without further disruption from the regime, and continue to look for long term solutions to support Syrians. Since the start of the earthquake we have proudly supported the White Helmets, the first responders in Syria, who are now also supporting recovery projects including assessing building safety and reopening roads and schools in affected areas. We will continue to look for long term solutions through our collective humanitarian, development and political efforts to support Syrians in the weeks, months and years ahead.

As this evolving situation heads into a new phase, from rescue to recovery, we are seeing thousands of families left homeless by the earthquake, packed into crowded tents or lined up in the streets queuing for hot meals. The crucial objective is ensuring our support reaches these people. Our Emergency Medical Team are on the ground, treating people who have sustained injuries, as well as people suffering from the secondary effects of the earthquake. And where they cannot, we will continue to support the work of our NGO and UN partners and will work closely with the UN on its ongoing efforts to increase humanitarian access to ensure the aid is delivered.

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