Around a month ago Syria and Turkey experienced a natural tragedy. On an early Monday morning, at 4:17 am, when everyone was sound asleep, Turks and Syrians were awoken by a devastating earthquake. The earthquake had a series of aftershocks, some of which were as impactful as the first one. The first earthquake struck southeastern Turkey near the border with Syria. According to Pallab Ghosh, a science correspondent, the earthquake had a magnitude of 7.8, which is considered very high. To put things into perspective, over 46000 people are reported dead: 40642 in Turkey and 5814 in Syria. Moreover, thousands of buildings and other infrastructure were destroyed, resulting in; many families being displaced.
Both nations are requesting aid to lessen the effects of the earthquake, as is customary in the wake of any natural disaster. However, even in a state of emergency, accepting aid may have further implications for the countries. This article aims to break down these implications that no one talks about.
Intergovernmental aid: Syria
According to the World Food Program, Turkey needs USD 80 million to provide assistance for quake-affected people. As for Syria, the programme needs USD 150 million to support the 800000 people affected. Even though Syria is arguably in a more vulnerable position than Turkey, it may be harder for them to get the needed aid. This is because before the earthquake, Syria was already dependent on external aid. According to the WFP, “Even before the disaster hit, 4.1 million people in northwest Syria—more than 90% of the population—depended on humanitarian aid.” For years, this aid has allowed to ameliorate the critical situation in the country.
With the earthquake’s impact, Syria is in need of even more resources to stabilize itself, but it faces some challenges. Firstly, they need to improve their international reputation. Instability and corruption in Syria lower countries’ trust in the government overseas. The European Council on Foreign Relations supported this idea by saying “Western leaders are unwilling to provide further assistance via Damascus due to fears that the regime will manipulate this aid for its purposes rather than delivering it to the intended recipients.” This highlights the complexity of the issue and also raises significant questions about the scope of international assistance.
Syria’s corrupted government or the lack thereof, in certain regions controlled by rebels, discourages international bodies from providing the necessary tools to recover from the earthquake. Despite the validity of their arguments, it is vital to offer care for Syrians whose lives were completely shattered. A donor conference organized by the UN might help with the situation. The resources collected will be sent directly to families in need of assistance via the border with Turkey.
Intergovernmental aid: Turkey
Giving Turkey international aid is delicate because the president stood with Russia during the Ukraine War. Therefore, the effects of this earthquake should be considered a humanitarian issue and not a political one. Turkey will receive $1.78 billion from the World Bank as a start on the road to recovery. As mentioned previously, this amount is significantly less than what is needed to recover. As a result, action must be taken by institutions like the EU or the UN.
Social media: the new aid mechanism
Furthermore, social media now plays an important role when it comes to aid. Social media platforms were flooded with posts about the earthquake fairly quickly after it began. Some of the posts added fallacies to the narrative, while others attempted to provide help remotely through links for donations. However, to what extent do they actually work? Where does this money go? In general, social media has become a useful tool for NGOs to spread awareness and gather donations for humanitarian purposes. However, not every post is reliable. The Turkish Security Directorate found 15 social media outlets that made money by advertising themselves as fundraisers. Accounts were shut down for impersonating official organizations. Fortunately, they were shut down. However, there remain many more accounts that are not trustworthy, yet social media users still share links to these accounts on their stories.
The social media situation is an even more critical matter when a country’s corruption level is high, which is the case for both Syria and Turkey. The government may try to take advantage of the disasters accompanied by the earthquake. Another issue with social media is that it is a tool to spread false information. On the other hand, social media is a great tool to improve a crisis because it helps spread awareness. Based on the fact that social media users consist of a demographic that is out of reach and lacks political power, it seems unrealistic to believe that social media has any real contribution to the situation in Turkey and Syria.
Therefore, developed countries should take the lead and join hands with political institutions to make financial contributions that will aid Syrians and Turkish people who are in desperate need for security.
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