Earthquake appeal: May take years for Turkey and Syria recover from disaster, says charity boss

Children eat bread as they sit under a cover in the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras (AFP via Getty Images)
Children eat bread as they sit under a cover in the southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras (AFP via Getty Images)

It may take years for Turkey and Syria to recover from the devastating earthquakes that have hit the countries, a British charity boss co-ordinating a major aid appeal has said.

The Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) launched a joint fundraising effort by 14 charities on Thursday, which will be match-funded by the Government up to £5 million.

"This emergency is immense and it will be sadly there for weeks and months and years ahead," DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed told the BBC.

"The rebuilding stage has not even started yet. The real priority is still search and rescue and delivering food, clean water and warmth to people.

"That's why we have to focus on that now."

More than 15,000 people have been killed in Turkey and Syria after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit on Sunday evening. Thousands are still missing and millions are believed to have been displaced by the disaster.

Freezing winter conditions have hindered rescue efforts, while people who have lost their homes face limited access to clean water and shelter.

Salah Aboulgasem, Deputy Director of Partner Development at Islamic Relief, based in Gazientep, Turkey, said: “The priority right now is saving lives by clearing the rubble. The next priority is supporting people who have lost their homes and gone through huge trauma. People need medicines and warmth.

“There is a lot of screaming, people are trying to find relatives.

“A lot of people are sleeping in cars because they are scared to go back into the buildings due to aftershocks. The cars are freezing cold."

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The devastation caused by earthquakes has been felt all around the world, not least by the communities here in the UK who know those affected.

“In times of crisis, we must stand together. That’s why I’ve been clear that my Labour Party fully supports the UK’s commitment to support the rescue and recovery effort.

“But we can and must help in other ways. I’m delighted to see the DEC Appeal launch today, which will provide much-needed support to those affected by the disaster. The British people have always shown themselves to be generous and I’ve no doubt they will do so again to support the people of Turkey and Syria as they rebuild their homes, and their lives.”

Abdullah Aid, a charity based in east London, said it has already raised £500,000 with its appeal.

It is working on the ground in Gaziantep with local aid groups and has stocks of supplies ready to send to impacted areas when flights resume.

CEO Shakil Malji said: “We have received a huge response from our donors and the sheer scale of the number of lives affected shows the scale of the disaster.

"Our aid workers are on the ground, distributing food, water, hot meals and clothing, providing immediate relief to the thousands who are stranded in the afflicted areas. Now is the time for action and Abdullah Aid is working on the ground right now delivering this vital aid.”