- HelpAge partner providing emergency response but many staff have been injured in earthquake and have lost their homes.
- “They are still pulling people and bodies from the collapsed buildings, so we know the numbers of casualties will increase.”
Older people must not be overlooked in the response to the earthquake which struck near the Syrian border in south-eastern Türkiye today.
“The freezing temperatures and already harsh conditions mean that utmost urgency must be given to the response to this earthquake,”
said Samuel Wood, HelpAge International’s Head of Inclusive Humanitarian Action.
“Older people are one of the most vulnerable groups in these circumstances. They face challenges in accessing adequate emergency shelter as well as essential supplies and services and are exposed to greater health risks because of the freezing temperatures. But we know from experience that the humanitarian system is not set up to cater for their specific needs and they are often left behind in the immediate response,”
added Samuel Wood.
As humanitarian organisations put together plans to deliver shelter, food and heating for those in need, HelpAge urges them to ensure that older people are factored in to rescue and relief efforts, with particular attention paid to older women and older people with disabilities.
HelpAge is working with its partner, the Syrian Expatriates Medical Association (SEMA) who are already active providing an emergency medical response.
However, emergency staff members have been injured in the earthquake. One staff member, Basem Shaher, spent last night in a car in the freezing cold with his wife and children, including a 15-day old baby. They are now sheltering in a mosque.
Speaking from Gaziantep, Basem Shaher said: “This is the worst situation I have seen for a long time. They are still pulling people and bodies from the collapsed buildings, so we know the numbers of casualties will increase. Over 500 buildings have collapsed in Gazientep.
“It’s snowing right now and it’s absolutely freezing. We are highly concerned for everyone who has been forced out of their homes in these freezing temperatures. We are particularly worried about the older Syrian refugees whose circumstances have already deteriorated due to years of living in appalling conditions in displaced people’s camps. We urgently need to get help to them, but it is extremely challenging with most of the routes into northwest Syria inaccessible; many roads are badly damaged and phone lines are down.”
HelpAge International is working with partners in Türkiye and northern Syria to support the humanitarian response, ensuring that it is inclusive of older people, people with disabilities and all those who risk being marginalised in the side-lines of the response.