Earthquakes in Syria and Turkey: Lessons for the World

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Crises have a special way of instructing us in valuable life lessons that we would not have acquired had it not been for the occurrence of the crisis. One of the most essential lessons we can take from crises is the significance of uniting as a global society and putting aside our differences in order to collaborate and work toward a shared objective. It is easy to get engulfed in dread and panic during a crisis. We must remember, however, that we are all human beings with the same fundamental wishes and goals. We are all exposed to the same hazards, whether we reside in a wealthy or poor nation, and we all have a duty to support each other when we can.

The seismic activity resulting from a high magnitude earthquake, such as an M7 or greater, produces an immense release of energy equivalent to that of 32 Hiroshima atomic bombs. Recent events have brought forth the sobering reality of this destructive force as southeast Turkey and northwest Syria were hit with a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tremors and aftershocks on February 6, 2023. The devastating effects of this event have been felt acutely by the affected populations, with the death toll surpassing 65,000 and continuing to rise. This catastrophic event underscores the pressing need for robust disaster preparedness and effective response measures to mitigate the impact of such natural disasters.

Tens of thousands have been wounded, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, in a region already riven by the almost 12-year war in Syria and the current refugee crisis. After frantically searching for more survivors for over two weeks, search and rescue teams from across the globe are now focusing on recovery activities. Approximately 87,000 people have been injured, and at least 47,000 structures have been demolished or damaged.

Moreover, the quake exacerbated the already dire situation along the border, which was exacerbated by the almost 12-year Syrian conflict and refugee crisis. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which operates one of its most significant operations from Gaziantep, Turkey shelters the world’s greatest population of refugees, around 3.5 million Syrians.

Hundreds of thousands of children and their families are now homeless as a result of the earthquake. Children are more vulnerable to hypothermia in sub-zero temperatures due to snow and harsh winter weather. Many survivors have been forced to sleep in automobiles, on the street, or in temporary shelters. Doctors have cautioned that because to the damage to shelters and water infrastructure, children are particularly at danger of contracting waterborne infections such as cholera or Hepatitis A. These youngsters are now at a higher risk of family separation, exploitation, and abuse. They are also unable to return to school since the buildings are declared hazardous.

The lesson for the world

In the age of sophisticated globalization and extraordinary connection between nations, there is no safest location on earth. Already, the post-pandemic battle and its direct effect on the global economy have harmed the global symphony. Therefore, what lesson does Mother Earth learn from the earthquake? It mainly began with the fundamental question, Is the world prepared to embrace reality? Yet, the crisis has undoubtedly taught the globe some valuable lessons.

Firstly, the crisis reveals the most basic component of human nature, namely that death and casualties have no control or choice. It may occur anywhere, anytime, and under any conditions. The global political community as well as individual actors must realize that the globe is not a home for everyone and that we, as humans, must act appropriately to create a peaceful planet.

Second, the reaction scenario should teach the globe a lesson in equitable assistance. While the aftermath of the disaster was marked by an abundance of aid, around 95 nations and hundreds of organizations continue to provide help. Within 96 hours after the earthquakes, more than 120,000 citizens and foreigners were engaged in Turkey, distributing thousands of tons of aid. It is a forceful, rapid, and extensive endeavor. This, however, does not comfort others who weep and anger because they remain cold, hungry, and homeless while assistance convoys struggle through highways damaged by winter storms.

On the other side, there is some bias in the help provided to the impacted region. Regarding Syria’s help, for instance, the international community does not transmit a prompt reaction, which is a particularly constrained component of post-earthquake period. As soon as aid and support reach the impacted region, casualties will decrease. Nonetheless, the delayed aid teaches the world to end grouping and discrimination; thus, respond to the necessities.

Therefore, natural tragedies teach us the significance of solidarity, humanity, and peace. Globalization is required to ensure that everyone receives the same assistance after a catastrophe, with an emphasis on local involvement and empowerment. By recognizing that natural calamities have the ability to unite people, we may strive toward a more peaceful and cooperative society.

Notably, these catastrophes are obviously catastrophic, but they remind us of the significance of scientific research and the application of that research via building regulations and upgrading infrastructure, enforcing legislation, and information exchange to develop best practices.

Markedly, the worldwide community has provided humanitarian relief to the victims of the recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. The United States has increased its assistance commitment by $10 million, bringing the total to $185 million. The European Union has pledged €5.5 million, while China has pledged 40 million yuan ($5.9 million) as its first emergency help to Turkey. These initiatives demonstrate the significance of international collaboration and assistance during times of crises. The international community can learn from this and continue to deliver timely and efficient relief to people in need. Turkey and Syria’s natural calamities serve as a reminder of the need of disaster preparation and response.

Yet, catastrophes are also possibilities for change, and enormous shocks may alter the social and political landscape. The tsunami in the Indian Ocean prompted the conclusion of the Aceh rebellion in Indonesia and the civil war in Sri Lanka. Severe drought and huge volcanic eruptions in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have destabilized the Sahel. COVID-19 has recently spread in the United States and China. Moreover, elections are scheduled for May in Turkey, and views of the present crisis are likely to affect state-citizen relations. On the other hand, there is a possibility that a catastrophe might change the course of the 12-year Syrian civil war.

In light of this, the lesson for the globe is that if a nation or area is afflicted by an unforeseen tragedy, it should take the socio-economic changes seriously and with responsibility.

Nevertheless, the earthquake spawned a humanitarian tidal wave that has the capacity to remove long-standing impediments. Reopening and expanding the number of border crossings between Turkey and Syria is not only an issue of logistical convenience. It represents the unblocking of the United Nations Security Council, which can only benefit the whole globe.

The experience teaches the international community that the area needs more humanitarian aid and fewer bombs.

In addition, the earthquake teaches the world that the military is best qualified to work in a terrain altered by a catastrophe and to immediately create airstrips for the delivery of relief.

Despite this, Ukrainians are giving humanitarian aid in Turkey, while Russian military are present in Syria. In addition, the United States has relaxed certain aid-related restrictions, and countries such as the United Arab Emirates are assisting through Ankara and Damascus. Similar sentiments emanating from the European Union provide encouraging signals to the globe.

Thus, this catastrophe has highlighted the need of global collaboration, highlighting the road towards globalization as a method of maintaining equity in the global response to disaster-stricken regions. In addition, these comments highlight the significance of community and remind us that the world is designed to be a place where peace and cooperation bloom for the benefit of all people.

Lastly, the crisis demonstrates that the world needs leaders who are ready to put people above politics and who recognize the significance of international collaboration. We need leaders who are committed to creating a more fair and equitable society in which everyone has the chance to enjoy a fulfilled life. Thus, after the earthquake, the global leader should learn the lesson of harmony, not hegemony.

To conclude, the recovery after the Turkey-Syria earthquake will be lengthy as survivors move through the many phases of grief and afflicted regions regain their footing. Fragmented bodies will repair, mental wounds will disappear, and reconstruction will fix planetary fractures. Thus, crises will occur in the future and mankind will suffer; this is unavoidable; nevertheless, the reaction of the world and humanity to the crisis is crucial. The Syria-Turkey earthquake teaches us once again that we should behave in a more humane manner, set aside our disagreements, and prioritize collaboration.

– S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

Published in Middle East Political and Economic Institute [Link]