Muslims Rush to Aid Turkey, Syria

As the number of people killed by the February 6 earthquake in Turkey and Syria keeps rising, so do the funding and donations from different parts of the world aimed at assisting survivors.

An online donation campaign launched by Saudi Arabia has raised more than $100 million from over 1.6 million individuals and companies in just over a week.

The Saudi government has also delivered planes loaded with food, medicine and shelter supplies, and has deployed search and rescue teams, according to the kingdom’s relief agency.

Other wealthy Arab kingdoms responded similarly. Only a day after the quake, the United Arab Emirates announced $100 million in humanitarian assistance for some of the millions of people displaced in Turkey and Syria amid punishing low temperatures.

Qatar has announced it will deliver 10,000 portable cabins and trailers that the oil-rich kingdom used during the 2022 World Cup in Doha, on top of food and medical aid.

Aid, even in small amounts, has poured in from every Muslim-majority country. Even Afghanistan, which faces nearly universal poverty under the repressive Taliban regime, has donated about $200,000 in cash.

Maryam Zarnegar Deloffre, director of the Humanitarian Action Initiative at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, said there is a diplomatic as well as a humanitarian element to the largesse.

“What we’re seeing is a normalization of relations between these states and Syria and Turkey,” Deloffre told VOA, adding that the Saudi royals and their allies are trying to reestablish ties with the Syrian regime in a bid to diminish Iran’s influence in the region.

The Gulf region’s Sunni monarchies accuse the Shia regime in Iran of trying to reshape regional power dynamics, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran also has sent aid supplies to Turkey and Syria.

A second Iran air force plane carrying relief supplies landed in Turkey on Tuesday. Iranian aid workers have set up emergency health clinics in the quake-affected areas and have assisted local authorities in rescue efforts, according to Iranian officials.

Deadly, destructive

As of Thursday, the number of people killed by the 7.8-magnitude quake stood at about 42,000 — over 36,000 in Turkey and some 5,800 in Syria — which makes it the fifth deadliest earthquake in the last 25 years.

The disaster has also caused at least $25 billion in economic damage in Turkey, JP Morgan Chase said on Thursday.

The Turkish economy was already squeezed by soaring inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency.

There has been no assessment of long-term economic damage in Syria, where years of war have shattered the national economy. About 9 million Syrians are impacted by the earthquake, the U.N. said.

The U.N. appealed Thursday for $1 billion to provide humanitarian relief in both countries over the next three months. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the money would “allow aid organizations to rapidly scale up vital support,” including in the areas of food security, protection, education, water and shelter.

The U.N.  launched a $397 million appeal to help quake victims in Syria earlier this week. The United States has pledged $85 million in an initial response.

“The State Department is working through U.N. agencies and NGOs to provide emergency assistance in Türkiye and in Syria, including providing hot meals, water, medical care and supplies, non-food items such as blankets and hygiene kits, temporary shelter, and structural engineers,” a spokesperson told VOA in written answers.

The State Department adopted the new spelling of Turkey in January at the request of the Turkish Embassy in Washington.

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