In the wake of today’s devastating earthquakes in the south-eastern region of Türkiye, a WHO European Region Member State, near the border with the Syrian Arab Republic, WHO/Europe is poised and ready to support the Turkish Ministry of Health with the humanitarian emergency response, including through the WHO Country Office in Türkiye and in collaboration with WHO headquarters.
“Amid the devastation wrought by the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, I want to express my deepest condolences to all the affected communities,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge. “WHO/Europe and the WHO Country Office in Türkiye are committed to assisting any unmet needs now and in the future, recognizing that Türkiye has its own extensive response capabilities that are already taking action and responding in the earthquake-affected areas.”
The epicentre of the initial earthquake was close to the Turkish city of Gaziantep, where WHO has a field office primarily supporting its humanitarian operations in north-western Syria. The field office is now operating as WHO’s response hub for this crisis as well.
News outlets are reporting that over 1500 people have been killed in Türkiye alone, with the toll likely to mount as rescue efforts intensify and more information becomes available.
Syria is a Member State of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. The WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (WHO/EMRO) is offering its support to parts of northern and north-western Syria that have also been heavily affected by the natural disaster. Both WHO/Europe and WHO/EMRO are working together with WHO headquarters to address critical health needs stemming from the crisis.
WHO’s Emergency Medical Teams initiative has been activated to provide essential health care for the injured and most vulnerable affected by the disaster, in response to a request for international assistance.
National authorities are focusing on search and rescue in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, while anticipating increased need for trauma care to treat the injured. The wider health system will also need to be supported in affected areas, including where health facilities may have been damaged.
“The immediate priority is to support the response locally,” noted Senior Emergency Officer Dr Catherine Smallwood, who is coordinating the Türkiye earthquake response at WHO/Europe. “Türkiye has very strong capacity to respond to earthquakes, but the level of destruction is such that they have put out an alert for international medical assistance. We are coordinating potential deployment with the Turkish authorities.”
WHO/Europe will continue to provide updates on the support provided to Türkiye, and the health needs being addressed amid the response, as the situation evolves.