Statement of Condolence to the Victims of the February 06 Earthquake in southern Turkey and northwest Syria
We are deeply saddened by the news of the earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northwest Syria in the early morning of Monday 6 February 2023. Our sympathies and condolences go out to the people of these regions who have suffered great losses in the Hatay, Gaziantep, Kilis and Diyarbakir governorates in southern Turkey, and Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and Latakia governorates in northwest Syria. It is believed that this earthquake has caused many casualties and severe destruction.
Reports from Turkey suggest that over 284 people have died and more than 1700 buildings have been destroyed in the southern Turkish provinces. In northwest Syria, the areas most affected have been the northern parts of Aleppo and Idlib governorates. According to the Damascus Ministry of Health, there have been 237 deaths and many injuries in regime-held areas, with Aleppo city being the most affected in these areas. The opposition-controlled areas have also been severely affected, particularly in areas close to the Turkey border where there are hundreds of IDPs camps. The displacement camps in Harim and Salqeen districts have been particularly hard hit, with numerous casualties reported.
The health system in northwest Syria is already fragile and fragmented after more than 12 years of dreadful conflict, and is incapable of responding to such a major catastrophe. The White Helmets and Idlib Health Directorates, as well as other NGOs, have initiated a rescue mission but with limited resources.
We mourn the loss of life in both countries and stand in solidarity with them as they continue to search for survivors and rebuild after this tragic event. There is an urgent need for an international response to the earthquake, particularly in the opposition held areas in northwest Syria where there is no state capacity to resource and lead the response.
Syria Public Health Network
The Syria Public Health Network was established in early 2015 in response to calls for an independent and critical assessment of the humanitarian and health response to the conflict, from colleagues working in Syria and the wider region. The aim is to create an independent space for discussion, analysis and policy generation for the types of health strategies and interventions which are effective in the context of the Syria crisis. Our work has included closed meetings, events, projects and consultancies relating to the Syrian healthcare workforce, Syria’s health system as well as key health issues including mental health, non-communicable diseases and communicable diseases.
Through 2022, we plan to expand our vision of creating and supporting a network of Syrian public health professionals in Syria and internationally.
What We Do
We aim to provide a space for dialogue, advocacy and analysis on issues important to the health of Syrians including current as well as future public health trends that have arisen from the Syrian crisis. We do this through i. Convening and curating closed meetings with representatives from donor agencies, United Nations and those working-on-the ground to address the challenges they face and possible policy responses ii. Hosting open meetings to highlight key health issues and humanitarian response issues iii. Producing and disseminating policy briefs, academic outputs and media editorials.
The Syria Public Health Network urges member states of the UNSC to renew Resolution 2585: a statement on the UNSC’s vote on cross-border aid to northwest Syria
July 7th, 2022
This week, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) will vote to renew Resolution 2585. This resolution was originally adopted in July 2021 with a unanimous vote and keeps Bab al-Hawa border crossing open for the delivery of essential humanitarian aid. Bab al-Hawa is the last open border crossing into northwest Syria on which more than 4 million people (more than half of whom are internally displaced) rely, for essential health and humanitarian aid. Through this border, essential supplies, food assistance, COVID-19 and polio vaccinations and other essentials are delivered to an increasingly vulnerable population.
SPHN recognizes the harrowing public health catastrophe that would result should cross-border aid via Bab al-Hawa be discontinued and thereby urges the UNSC to renew Resolution 2585. It is imperative that the vote on the border crossing not be used as a bargaining tool. The issue should instead be approached solely as the humanitarian matter that it is. Failure to renew the resolution will exacerbate food insecurity and block the delivery of essential medical aid and equipment to the individuals living in northwest Syria, over half of whom are children. It may also reverse the effects of past cross-border operations, such that previously eliminated epidemics like polio may reemerge.
The closure of Yaroubieh border crossing in January 2020, through which aid had been provided to northeast Syria has shown how such border closures jeopardize humanitarian aid. There have been numerous examples of impeded flow of aid to areas in the northeast which are no longer covered by cross-border resolutions. This has been particularly stark during the COVID-19 pandemic. Should Bab al-Hawa
border crossing be closed, the same could happen in northwest Syria with even more devastating consequences.
We therefore reiterate that if Bab al-Hawa is closed, there are no alternative UN cross-border aid mechanisms available. This will lead to a humanitarian disaster even worse than has already been seen in Syria’s violent and protracted conflict. Humanitarian organizations will not be able to deliver life-saving aid without the renewal of this border crossing. SPHN implores the member states of the UNSC to renew Resolution 2585 to keep Bab al Hawa open and to push for the reopening of Bab Al Salam (to the northwest) and Yaroubieh border crossings (to the northeast.) Without this, millions of civilians will suffer from such interruptions to humanitarian aid.
For further information, please visit:
Physicians for Human Rights. Time is Running Out: Secure Humanitarian Access for Million in Northern Syria
United Nations News. UN Syria Commission: ‘unconscionable to consider closing last border crossing’
Mark Cutts at the New Humanitarian. Why the UNSC must vote for Syria aid.
SPHN are pleased to support the 4th R4HSS-King’s College London conference on Syria. Abstract submission deadline on 19th September 2022. Please see further details here: https://r4hsss.org
SPHN are pleased to announce the expansion of their advisory committee with whom they had their inaugural meeting in July 2022
The Syria Public Health Network, the Health in Internal Displacement Network (HIDN) and Research for Health System Strengthening in Syria (R4HSSS) are pleased to announce the publication of their paper on internally-displaced person (IDP) health in Syria in the Journal of Migration and Health. This came out of the workshop held in November 2021
Health and humanitarian response after the earthquakes in northern Syria: challenges and recommendations
On 6th February 2023, an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale devastated southern Turkey and northern Syria. Significant aftershocks and subsequent earthquakes also continue to contribute to the devastation experienced by civilians in