Helping the helpers in the earthquake areas

[Translate to Englisch:] Kriegskindernothilfe
© Kriegskindernothilfe e.V.

Informing about the situation in the quake-hit areas and soliciting support for aid organizations working in Turkey and Syria – these were the goals of a Zoom event organized by the KU. It was largely initiated by committed students. Initiatives and projects from both affected countries were presented, which can fall back on already-established structures and are urgently dependent on donations.

Immediately after the first severe quake, students Sinem Kirli and Sarah Al-Issawi spontaneously organized a waffle sale on the Eichstätt KU campus to collect donations for the victims of the disaster. At the same time, the Eichstätt-based aid organization Support International, which had already launched an aid campaign together with the KU at the beginning of the war in Ukraine, also became active. The online event now brought the two initiatives together and provided an opportunity to gain insight into the work of several aid organizations.

For example, Dr. Adnan Wahhoud, a Syrian living in Germany, reported on the Medical Points in his home country that he had initiated ten years ago and that are being operated under the umbrella of the association "Kriegskindernothilfe" . "The earthquakes have added to the problems in Syria that already exist there in the face of war and displacement", described the former engineer. With temperatures still below zero, sheltering from the cold is currently a major challenge for those now homeless, he said. In this situation, he continued, it was necessary to improvise, since hardly any tents were available in Syria itself and hardly any help from abroad was able to cross the border of the war-torn country. When he retired, Wahhoud said he did not just want to sit and watch the news, but to actively contribute to alleviating some of the suffering directly on the spot. Currently, seven Medical Points initiated by him in the provinces of Aleppo and Idlib provide basic medical care for the population. The centers provide medication for about 6000 patients per month. Before the earthquake, the facilities were open four days a week, now they have gone up to six days. In addition, there are soup kitchens the capacity of which has been increased once again in view of the current situation. "We are glad that we can now fall back on our infrastructure, which has been in place for years, because currently there is hardly any help arriving from abroad", Wahhoud emphasized.

The Eichstätt-based aid organization "Support International,” which was presented by its chairman Dr. Martin Groos, in turn cooperates with facilities and institutions that have many years of experience in crisis areas around the world. Support International convinces itself of its partner associations’ commitment on a regular basis. Its partner network includes the Christian organization "Pro Terra Sancta” (PTS), which has been providing humanitarian aid in the Middle East for many years as a non-profit organization. In Syria in particular, as PTS representatives Giacomo Pizzi and Andrea Avveduto reported, the organization has already been active since 2012 – from the distribution of food to the supply of electricity through photovoltaic systems. Pizzi was in Aleppo when the earthquake struck the city on February 6. Given the already existing war damages on the buildings, the search for survivors was rendered particularly difficult as helpers could not clearly identify houses that had only been damaged by the quake, he said. "We have now welcomed over 5,000 people in our emergency relief centers. Since the subsoil infrastructure had also been severely damaged, the supply of drinking water is also a key challenge." The sanctions against Syria hampered fast and direct aid, he continued, which meant that Pro Terra Sancta also had to take detours. "People are grateful not only for the material help they are provided with, but also for the attention and compassion that is given to them from the international community. This gives them hope to start over again and again", Pizzi emphasized.

Sinem Kirli, a KU teaching degree student from Turkey, described the situation in her home country. Although her own family was fortunately not directly affected by the consequences of the earthquake, many people in the wider circle of friends and relatives were. Kirli impressively demonstrated the size of the epicenter, which would extend from North Rhine-Westphalia to Thuringia if transferred to a map of Germany. She said that many people especially suffered from the cold, as they mostly escaped directly from their beds onto the streets and had no other clothing. The same applies to their identity documents that are a prerequisite for being able to apply for a visa to leave the country, for example to stay with their relatives in Germany. With this in mind, the student asked attendees to donate to two institutions: Firstly, to the independent and non-partisan Verband der Islamischen Kulturzentren e.V. (VIKZ), which uses donations primarily to provide the population with heatable containers and food. On the other hand, she introduced the Turkish disaster management organization AFAD that also uses donations to ensure the supply of food and medical aid.

The event was concluded with a musical contribution by the Syrian Peace Choir in Munich and a joint commemoration – with both the "Our Father" prayer and the surah "al-Fatiha".