Published March 16, 2023
On Feb. 6, 2023, multiple earthquakes shook areas of the Middle East and resulted in the horrific destruction of more than 6,000 homes. More than 47,000 people have lost their lives so far. Our hearts and minds are with the people in Turkey and Syria amid this tragedy.
As people in America, we must be mindful and aware of how the United Nations and U.S. sanctions on Syria are standing in the way of humanitarian aid in Northern Syria. The people in the Middle East have their rights violated on a daily basis, and the media and the international community have consistently failed to respond. Xenophobia, racism and all forms of oppression and discrimination cannot be tolerated, and silence on this matter is just as destructive.
As the UB School of Social Work Graduate Student Association (GSA), we stand in solidarity with the citizens in both countries. We are in full support of the Syrian and Turkish Social Workers and first responders who have been on the ground since February 6 until now.
A member from the Social Work Department at Damascus University, spoke to the International Federation of Social Workers about the social work response following the earthquakes. They stated that the department’s students have traveled to the crisis zone to work alongside other professionals applying psychosocial first aid. “Their work has involved locating safe spaces for survivors, organizing the distribution of food, clothing, blankets and medical supplies,” says Dr. Hana Al-Barqawi.
From IFSW - Update on Syrian Social Workers Actions Following the Earthquakes: “The role of social work in natural disasters is essential for positive outcomes,” said Rory Truell. “There have been many cases which show that social workers recognize that many people who have been affected by the quake, can also become central in supporting others. This social work approach enlarges the workforce. It gives people a proactive role, which also reduces their trauma symptoms. This is social work working beyond the aid model in helping people to restore, rebuild and have hope for a better future.”
Similarly, the Liaison Officer for the Turkish Association of Social Workers has reported that social workers from all over the country have traveled to the earthquake zone to assist and aid people who are affected. Turkish social workers have been struggling with this task due to the shortage of resources. “The social workers at the earthquake zone report that it is an unprecedented crisis involving mass deaths, injuries, and displaced peoples” (IFSW - Update From the Turkish Association of Social Workers)
The International Social Work efforts should not be gone unseen, unappreciated and unsupported. More than ever, the people in the Middle East need our support and solidarity. As a Social Work Department, we know how trauma affects the individual and the community. We know how a tragedy like this separates families, leaves people homeless and shatters souls. Speaking up, donating, educating and advocating for Turkish and Syrian lives can save lives.
Jessica Al Kadi