Even before last February, the healthcare system in northwest Syria was struggling, with underfunded medical facilities and limited services. The earthquakes damaged 55 health facilities, leaving them unable to function fully. As well as medical assistance, people across the region needed toilets, showers, heating systems, winter clothing, generators, blankets, hygiene kits and cleaning products.
From emergency response to long-term activities
In the hours following the first quake, MSF teams provided emergency medical care and immediately started distributing MSF’s existing stocks of essential relief items. In the following days, MSF sent 40 trucks loaded with medical and non-medical items to the area, including food and shelter materials. Meanwhile MSF water and sanitation experts constructed toilets and showers for earthquake survivors and provided them with clean drinking water.
“Following the acute phase of the emergency response, our focus shifted towards providing shelter, food and relief items, ensuring access to healthcare as well as water and sanitation services,” says Balivet. “The lack of these basic necessities has had a profound impact on people's mental health.”
One year on, the physical destruction caused by the quakes is less visible than before, but the impact on people’s mental health is stark.
“Since the earthquake, cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and behavioural problems have surged, especially among children,” says Omar, “in addition to panic attacks, various types of phobias and psychosomatic symptoms.”