WHO launches $84.5m appeal for 'unprecedented' quake disaster

'Emergency medical services are overwhelmed,' agency says

As the WHO launched its flash appeal, it warned the tragedy was only going to get worse. AP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The World Health Organisation appealed on Friday for $84.5 million to respond to health needs after the earthquakes in Turkey and the Syria.

“The flash appeal outlines the health situation in the two countries following this humanitarian disaster, the main threats to health, the WHO response since the earthquakes hit and priorities for addressing the health impacts in both countries,” the UN agency said in a statement.

The WHO estimates about 26 million survivors are at risk across the disaster area, of whom about five million are considered vulnerable, with 1.4 million of them children.

As it launched the flash appeal for $84.5 million, the WHO warned the tragedy was only going to get worse.

“Casualties and injuries are expected to increase. Emergency medical services are overwhelmed with trauma patients,” the WHO said.

“Essential health services have been severely disrupted, thereby increasing the risk of Covid-19, other respiratory infections, cholera and other waterborne diseases, measles and chronic/non-communicable diseases.

“Equally, there is a huge, immediate and increasing need for mental health and psychosocial support services, as well as continued access to sexual, reproductive and maternal health care, antenatal care, child health and assistance to people with disabilities.

“The health consequences of this disaster are unprecedented in both Turkey and whole of Syria, and will last well beyond the initial phase of the emergency.”

The WHO's immediate response will be split into eight priorities:

  • Ensuring access for the most vulnerable and affected populations
  • Immediate trauma care for injured patients and post-trauma rehabilitative care
  • Provision of essential medicines, emergency kits and supplies to fill urgent gaps
  • Prevention and control of disease outbreaks
  • Access to mental health and psychosocial support
  • Co-ordination of the international health response
  • Ensuring access to essential health services, particularly for women, children, the elderly and those living with non-communicable diseases

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the region in the early hours of February 6, with its epicentre located in the Pazarcik district, Kahramanmaras province, in Turkey. There have been more than 1,200 aftershocks

The earthquakes have hit an area of about 400 square kilometres, including the large Turkish industrial cities of Gaziantep and Adana as well as surrounding cities, where about 15 million people live, plus an extra two million Syrian refugees.

Earthquakes also shattered several northern regions of Syria, including Aleppo, Hama, Lattakia, Tartous and Idlib.

Part of the problem is the hospitals that many people in affected areas rely on have been damaged.

The WHO said 15 hospitals in Turkey had sustained partial or heavy damage, while in Syria, 48 health facilities in the north-west were damaged.

Updated: February 17, 2023, 8:55 PM