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WHO Tedros pledges support after first visit to Turkiye quake zone

February 28, 2023 at 4:06 pm

A sign of the World Health Organisation (WHO) [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will support Ankara in its response to massive earthquakes that killed more than 50,000, Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Tuesday, as the death toll from the latest aftershock rose to two, Reuters reports.

The massive earthquakes that struck Turkiye’s south-east and neighbouring Syria in the last three weeks have injured more than 108,000 in Turkiye, leaving millions sheltering in tents or seeking to move to other cities.

The latest substantial aftershock, with a magnitude of 5.6, hit on Monday, killing two and injuring 140 people, the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said, adding that 32 people had been rescued from the rubble.

READ: Syria Church in southern Turkiye takes severe damage from February quakes

Turkiye is “doing its best” but still needs international support to help the victims of the earthquake, Tedros said, describing the destruction as “really massive” for modern history.

In a news conference alongside Turkish Health Minister, Fahrettin Koca, in Antakya, one of the most affected cities, Tedros said the two had discussed the health situation in camps.

“These are like respiratory infections, GI infections, especially mental health problems – because many people are really traumatised – and people who need rehabilitation services, especially orthopaedic services,” he said.

“From WHO side, we will support in any way possible based on the issues observed or documented and based on the priorities of the Ministry,” Tedros added.

More than 160,000 buildings containing 520,000 apartments collapsed, or were severely damaged in Turkiye by the disaster, the worst in the country’s modern history.

President Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to rebuild homes within a year, but it will still be many months before thousands can leave tents or shipping containers and daily queues for food and move into permanent housing, key to gaining the sense of normalcy and safety they lost.

The earthquakes have struck months ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled to be held by June, which present the biggest political challenge to Erdogan in his two-decade rule.

READ: Erdogan apologises for earthquake response delays