Earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria in February destroyed more than lives and property, says Petra Antoun, a Mennonite Central Committee staff person in Syria.
“There would always be hope somewhere, but now everything is destroyed,” Antoun said Feb. 24. “There are still areas that were not affected directly, not destroyed, but the people there are destroyed from inside.”
In the northern city of Aleppo, near the border with Turkey, Antoun is working with MCC partner organizations to assist survivors.
The disaster compounded hardships Syrians were already facing.
The country has been weakened by almost 12 years of armed conflict, which damaged many buildings, making them more vulnerable to earthquakes. Families displaced by conflict are living in unfinished and unsafe buildings at higher risk for collapse.
“Most of the buildings are either destroyed by war and then the earthquake, or they are about to fall,” Antoun said.
Sanctions many countries imposed in 2011 were hard on the Syrian people.
“They were putting sanctions on the government, but to be honest, they were on the people,” Antoun said. “Because of that, we don’t have fuel to generate electricity, to have some heat during winter or to have bread, basic items or formula for babies. . . .
“Before the earthquake, it was difficult for people to get their basic needs [met]. And now, after what’s happened, many lost their jobs.”
On Feb. 17, MCC U.S. signed a statement, along with 15 other national faith organizations, urging the United States to lift sanctions on Syria.
Through partners in Syria, MCC is:
— Planning a long-term food response in Aleppo, Latakia and Tartous.
— Distributing hygiene items and blankets.
— Providing emergency food in shelters, along with hygiene items, drinking water, blankets, mattresses and trauma counseling.
— Continuing work that was in place before the earthquake to distribute food and give support for heating needs.