In response to the earthquake Monday in Türkiye and Syria, the following statement is attributable to Houssam al-Nahhas, MD, MPH, Middle East & North Africa researcher at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), who worked in the region until 2019 and now conducts research on human rights and public health in Syria:
“We express our profound sorrow and solidarity with communities in Syria and Türkiye following the horrific earthquake that has killed, injured and displaced thousands of people.
“The devastating earthquake compounds the crises that Syrians already endure. Nearly 12 years of war, atrocities, disease outbreaks, economic collapse, aid obstruction, and neglect have already battered the health system in northern Syria. Millions of Syrians were already living in limbo – the earthquake has made an existing disaster even more dire.
“Health workers in Syria have worked through targeted violence, supply shortages, and global apathy. Clinicians and civilians need global support now more than ever.
“We call for immediate, unhindered humanitarian assistance to all communities affected by the earthquake, wherever and whoever they are. International actors must also prioritize reaching those who are hardest to reach, particularly in northwest Syria, which has been cut off from the outside world except for the lone international aid checkpoint with Türkiye at Bab-al-Hawa. This sole aid crossing was never sufficient on its own, and now with Türkiye grappling with thousands of deaths and collapsed buildings itself, it is clear that a new mechanism to reach people in need in northwest Syria needs to be urgently implemented.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.