Ismaili community in Chicago pours in with donations as Turkey, Syria earthquake death toll exceeds 41,000; Focus Humanitarian Assistance, AKDN Agencies and Aga Khan Syria Council mobilize; and Focus welcomes donations

“We have all seen the heart-wrenching images and the heroic efforts of humanitarians battling the elements, the clock and the odds to save lives. We mourn the loss of so many – and the tragic toll keeps growing. Thousands of buildings have collapsed. Tens of thousands of people are exposed to unforgiving winter conditions. Schools and hospitals have been destroyed. Children are enduring terrible trauma. And we are sadly aware that we haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes” — UN Secretary General, February 9, 2023.

Earthquake Epicenter
Image credit: VOA

Report compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(From VOA, the Ismaili and other external websites; sources are hyperlinked. This post was first created on February 8, 2023 and may include material from earlier versions. This post was updated with a new death count on Thursday, February 16, 2023)

VOA (Voice of America) News in its latest update to the powerful earthquake that struck parts of Turkey and Syria on Monday February 6, 2023, reports that rescue crews in Turkey and Syria are racing against time and the cold to find survivors buried in the rubble of buildings from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that has killed more than 35,00 (the number of dead reported on February 8 was 11,200.)

earthquake in syria and turkey

Search sites have been the scenes of some celebrations as people are found alive and taken away for medical care. But uncovering the rubble has also meant frequent increases in the number of casualties. According to VOA, February 16, officials in Turkey said at least 36,187 people were killed and more than 108,000 others were injured. In Syria, there were at least 5,500 deaths have been confirmed according to figures compiled by the United Nations humanitarian agency and Syria’s state-run news agency. The earthquake is now the world’s deadliest seismic event since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people in Japan.

earthquake in syria and turkey

The prospect of rescuing more people in Turkey and Syria trapped under the rubble of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake are dwindling, but Friday February 10, 2023, several survivors were pulled from the ruins in Hatay province in Turkey’s south. In this picture, at left, a rescuer takes care of a young girl rescued in Kahramanmaras, southern Turkey — see VOA story

earthquake in syria and turkey

Search teams and emergency aid from throughout the world poured into Turkey and Syria as rescue workers dug through the rubble in a desperate search for survivors. Some voices that had been crying out for help fell silent. “We could hear their voices, they were calling for help,” said Ali Silo, whose two relatives could not be saved in the Turkish town of Nurdagi.

The U.N. resident coordinator for Syria said Wednesday that 10.9 million people have been affected across the country by the earthquake. Before the quake, there were already 15.3 million in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, due to more than a decade of civil war. “So, it’s a crisis on top of a crisis,” El-Mostafa Benlamlih told reporters at the United Nations in New York during a video briefing from Damascus. He said in Aleppo alone, they estimate a third of homes have been damaged or destroyed, displacing around 100,000 people.

In a photo story, Reuters reports that the Aleppo Citadel, restored by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture between 2001-2006, suffered damage in the earthquake, further to its scarring during Syria’s 11 year conflict. The Wall Street Journal also carries a short video footage of damage to the ancient Citadel following the earthquake.

earthquake in syria and turkey

UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres said the first aid convoy reached victims in northern Syria on Thursday, February 10, as he appealed for more access and funds to assist the millions affected by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria on Monday. “Just hours ago, the first United Nations convoy crossed into northern Syria through Bab al-Hawa crossing,” Guterres told reporters. “It included six trucks, carrying shelter and other desperately needed relief supplies. More help is on the way, but much more — much more — is needed.” The secretary-general said his humanitarian and emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths is already in Turkey and will go to Gaziantep to assess needs. He will then continue to Aleppo and Damascus in Syria. “We are sadly aware that we haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes,” Guterres said, offering condolences for victims and solidarity with survivors.



“I welcome the decision today [Feb. 13, 2023] by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to open the two crossing points of Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee from Türkiye to northwest Syria for an initial period of three months to allow for the timely delivery of humanitarian aid” — UNSG Antonio Guterres

WHO is sending medical supplies to Syria to boost the humanitarian response' February 12, 2023. Photograph: WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) is sending medical supplies to Syria to boost the humanitarian response. It has launched a $43 million appeal to support earthquake response in Syria and Türkiye, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Sunday. February 12, 2023. Photograph: WHO.

The recent rescue of two children from the rubble of collapsed buildings in Idlib and Aleppo in northwest Syria is a rare bit of good news in an area devastated by the massive earthquake that struck southern Turkey and its northern neighbor Monday. While a huge humanitarian operation is slowly gathering steam in Turkey, similar efforts in Syria are barely able to get off the ground.

I’ve seen first-hand the unbearable toll the earthquake has taken on people in #Syria. @WHO teams are working in affected areas and aiming to further scale up across the country, including in the northwest. But much more help is needed. Click; and — Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, February 12, 2023.

Logistical problems brought on by more than 12 years of crisis and conflict, the crippling impact of unilateral sanctions, and the reluctance to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, has been among the limiting factors. Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or UNOCHA, warns that political tensions between Turkey and its northern neighbor could compound the difficulties for aid workers to adequately respond to the crisis in Syria.

However, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Monday, February 13, that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to allow the United Nations to temporarily use two additional border crossings from Turkey to get aid to earthquake victims inside Syria. The announcement came hours after his humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, met with Assad and senior Syrian officials in Damascus. Griffiths has called in recent days for the regime to open more access for humanitarians.



Focus Humanitarian, Earthquaake in Syria and Turkey, Simerg, News
AKAH Search and Rescue Teams have been deployed in Syria. This photo is from a training programme in 2018. Photograph: Focus Humanitarin. PHOTO: FOCUS

According to the.Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili community, the earthquakes have impacted some areas of Jamati presence in Syria where the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) programmes are already active. Following the earthquakes, Focus Humanitarian Assistance, in collaboration with the Ismaili Council for Syria and AKDN agencies, has mobilised rapidly. The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH) has taken the lead on the ground and is working closely with UNOCHA to assess and respond to the emergency. AKAH Search and Rescue Teams have been deployed in AKDN programme areas, and the National Council has organised the relocation of members of the Jamat from the affected areas. Community Emergency Response Teams, working with AKAH engineers, are making rapid risk assessments of buildings, including homes, and communicating with households to support their identification of living alternatives as appropriate. Stockpiles of emergency supplies, primarily shelter and hygiene kits, have been readied for transportation as required. AKAH’s international rescue teams in other parts of the world have been placed on standby to deploy if required and requested by the government. AKAH is working with UNOCHA in the formulation of a joint appeal for resources to respond to the situation.



The Honorable Engin Türesin, Consul General of Turkey in Chicago, pictured outside the Glenview Ismaili Jamatkhana with volunteers of the donation drive. Photograph: Consul General of Turkey.

Following a formal announcement on Friday, February 10, 2023 in all Chicagoland Jamatkhanas as well as email blasts and social media messages, a large crowd of Ismailis and non-Ismailis turned out on the following day, Saturday February 11, for a donation drive for victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. The drive was an initiative of Focus Humanitarian Assistance USA and Ismaili Civic. It was held at the parking lot of the Glenview Jamatkhana and was attended by the Honorable Engin Türesin, Consul General of Turkey, who thanked all the donors and volunteers.

Ismaili Civic and Focus Humanitarian Drive for Earthquake in Syria and Turkey


The Consul General of Turkey. at Ismaili donation drive Chicago
The Honorable Engin Türesin, Consul General of Turkey in Chicago is welcomed to the Glenview Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre by Ms. Amyna Lakhani, the Honorary Secretary of the Ismaili Council for the Midwestern USA, Aziz Ali and Sadruddin Noorani. Photograph: Consul General of Turkey.

Honorable Engin Türesin also took the occasion to to visit the Jamatkhana and the Religious Education Classes that were in session. He was very impressed by what he saw, and praised the Ismaili Muslim community for the work it is doing. Earlier, the Consul General and the donors were welcomed to the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center by Ms. Amyna Lakhani, the Honorary Secretary of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for the Midwestern, USA.

We understand that similar donation drives are being planned in other US cities including Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles.


Focus Humanitarian Logo Simerg, Earthquake assistance in Turkey and Syria, News


The.Ismaili website states that members of the Jamat wishing to make contributions to support the response are requested to visit the following Focus Humanitarian Assistance websites. And members residing outside North America, the UK and Europe should consider donating through the same offices listed hereunder:

In Canada:
FOCUS Canada | Donate online

In the United States:
FOCUS USA Donate online

In the UK and Europe:
FOCUS Europe Donate online


Date posted: February 8, 2023.
Last updated: February 16, 2023 (11:21 AM EST, death count.)


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