The death toll from massive earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday continues to rise as rescuers swarm the wreckage and brave freezing temperatures in the hopes of finding survivors.
At least 5,000 people have died and hundreds more were injured after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake — and a subsequent earthquake of nearly equal strength — reduced homes and other buildings in the region to rubble.
With each passing hour, new horrors are uncovered in the region. Ali Silo, whose two relatives could not be saved in the Turkish town of Nurdagi, said voices that had been calling out from the crumpled ruins of buildings have gone silent.
“We could hear their voices, they were calling for help,” Ali Silo told The Associated Press.
Governments and humanitarian organizations around the world have sprung into action overthe last day, sending search teams and emergency aid to the region. Canada has announced plans to send $10 million in immediate aid, though has yet to commit rescue crews or machinery to help.
Canada’s “moral support” is “very strong,” Kerim Uras, the Turkish ambassador to Canada, told Global News following the announcement.
“The support is really very heartwarming,” he said.
“But we do need more help and the cold is working against us.”
Governments and aid organizations aren’t the only ones able to help blunt the blow of the disaster. Individual Canadians can help, too.
Donate, donate, donate
One of the most helpful things Canadians can do from their homes is open their wallets and donate what they can to bolster relief efforts.
“Canadians have had a history of being very generous, and they continue to be very generous,” said Dalia Al-Awqati, the head of humanitarian affairs with Save the Children Canada.
“One of the best ways to actually support … rescue efforts and relief efforts at the moment is by donating.”
Organizations like Save the Children spring into action on the ground in areas of crisis as soon as they know their teams on the ground are alright, Al-Awqati said. One of the first things they’ll do is “assess damage” and “see what the immediate needs are.”
In Turkey and Syria, many of those needs are “life-saving” ones that need to be met.
“People are going to need shelter. They’ve lost their homes, they feel unsafe in their homes. They will need clean water, they will need food,” Al-Awqati said.
“It’s winter and there’s a cold front coming through the area. And in Turkey and Syria and in the broader region, they need non-food items, clothes, things to keep them warm, things to limit exposure.”
On top of that, injured survivors will need health services, and many will require mental health care.
“Events like these are incredibly traumatizing and especially for children,” Al-Awqati said.
The region that was hit hard is home to many people, including children, who have already experienced the trauma of war. Al-Awqati was in Lebanon in 2020 after a massive explosion killed more than 200 people, and she saw the impact this had on children with pre-existing trauma firsthand.
“It was so hard for them to comprehend that the little safety that they felt that they had had been swept out from under them,” she said.
“There’s already a big baseline for trauma. So these kinds of incidents — earthquakes, aftershocks — they have a massive retraumatizing effect.”
I want to donate. Where can I do it?
If you’re able to spare some cash to help fund relief efforts, you’ll want to be cautious about where you do it, Al-Awqati said — and researching the organization where you hope to send funds is always a good idea.
“There’s nothing wrong in trying to do a personal vetting of the organization or the institution,” she said.
The Canadian government has a website dedicated to helping people sleuth out charity scams.
“Often, the scammer will play on your emotions. For example, they might pretend to be helping victims of a recent natural disaster or claim they are from a charity that helps animals or sick children,” the website reads.
“Not only do these scams cost people money, they also divert donations away from real charities.”
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The Canada Revenue Agency has a registered charities database that can be used to ensure your donation is going to a real charitable organization.
Canadians who want to skip the vetting step can also visit pre-verified websites. For example, Humanitarian Coalition brings together a number of verified organizations, including OXFAM Canada, Save the Children Canada, and World Vision Canada.
When they receive donations, the coalition distributes funds to its member agencies so they can “meet the basic needs of survivors quickly and effectively,” the website said.
You can donate through HumanitarianCoalition.ca online.
Other reliable organizations that are currently collecting funds to help in Turkey include:
Cash-strapped? Here's how else you can help
Canadians who don’t have cash to spare can still help relief efforts in other ways, according to Al-Awqati.
“Canadians have been generous … with their money, but they’ve also been generous with their support,” she said.
“Keeping the conversation going about the impact of the earthquake is really, really important.”
Continuing to draw attention to this relief effort, which is going to take some time, will be key to ensuring the communities can recover. Canadians should consider talking to their local politicians, Al-Awqati said, and letting them know relief efforts in Turkey and Syria are a priority for them.
The region is also very cold at this time of year. Uras said Canadians with extra tents, sleeping bags or thick coats should consider donating them.
“The magnitude was quite devastating. So anything they can send is most welcome. We have collection centres,” he said.
With a Turkish diaspora of roughly 65,000 across the country, there’s also a good chance Canadians will have people in their community who are intimately impacted by the earthquakes.
“Sometimes it feels like we’re very, very far from where the epicenter of this kind of crisis would happen, but … empathy actually is very much needed locally as well,” Al-Awqati said.
“You will see people from those communities, you’ll see people from other communities, who have had similar experiences in your day-to-day life, probably. … It’s a good reminder to have these kinds of experiences in the back of your head.”
Above all, the humanitarian worker warned Canadians not to lose sight of the people at the centre of this disaster.
“This is humongous, and while the numbers speak for themselves, imagine being a three-year-old child during that earthquake. During the first earthquake. The aftershocks. The second earthquake,” she said.
“Imagine being separated from your family. Imagine being two cities over with no communications, not knowing if your brother, your sister, your niece, your nephew are alive.”
This is why relief efforts are so important, Al-Awqati said, especially as a cold front moves into the region.
“I can’t imagine what the children are going through. I can’t imagine what parents are going through,” she said. “It really is heartbreaking.”
Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global News, is supporting the Humanitarian Coalition in its appeal to help victims of the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. Donations can be made online.