IDILIB, SYRIA, Oct 13 (IPS) – Seven-year-old Salim al-Bakkar was orphaned during the earthquake that struck southern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, 2023.
Saved by members of civil protection who pulled him from the rubble, doctors had to amputate his left leg, which had been crushed during the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 55,000 people and destroyed at least 230,000 buildings.
Salim, from Jenderes, north of Aleppo, Syria, was pulled from the rubble but, suffering from crush syndrome, had his leg amputated.
Her only surviving relative, her grandmother Farida al-Bakkar, tells IPS of the pain and sadness of caring for her grandchild.
“When my grandson woke up and saw me, he asked me about his mother, but I couldn’t tell him that his mother and father were dead because he was devastated .”
Salim is not alone; thousands of children have survived without their families and now experience loneliness, psychological stress and physical pain.
Even seven months after the earthquake, the fear Salim felt that day remained etched in his memory, according to his grandmother.
Dr. Kamal Al-Sattouf, from Idlib in northern Syria, says the earthquake caused many illnesses.
“Thousands of buildings were completely and partially destroyed following the earthquake, while water and sanitation infrastructure in the regions was damaged, increasing the risk of epidemics and infectious diseases such as cholera”.
The doctor highlighted the spread of respiratory diseases, such as lung infections, especially among children and the elderly, and diarrhea of all kinds, viral and bacterial, cholera and malaria, due to vectors that spread among the rubble. , such as mosquitoes, flies, mice and rodents.
Al-Sattouf said people pulled alive from the rubble were often also affected by what is known as “crush syndrome.” The hospital where he works has received numerous cases, the severity of which is often linked to the time survivors spend under the rubble, usually made of heavy cement blocks.
According to the doctor, crush syndrome occurs when the force or compression exerted by collapsed buildings cuts off blood circulation to certain parts of the body or limbs.
Salma Al-Hassan, a 10-year-old girl from Harem, in northern Syria, keeps asking to visit her old home destroyed by the earthquake. It was there that she lost her mother and sister.
Her father explains: “My daughter suffers from a bad psychological state that is difficult to overcome. With panic attacks, fear and continuous crying, she refuses to believe that her mother and sister are dead.”
He points out that his daughter withdrew after witnessing the horrors of the earthquake. She likes to be alone and refuses to talk to others. She also refuses to go to school.
He and his daughter were pulled alive from the rubble more than 8 hours after the earthquake.
Dalal Al-Ali, a psychological counselor from Sarmada, northern Syria, told IPS: “Many people who survived the earthquake disaster, especially children, still suffer from anxiety disorders and depression. , which is one of the problems. The symptoms of this disorder are persistent. feelings of sadness and hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns.
She stressed that children affected by the earthquake urgently need psychosocial support in addition to life-saving assistance, including clean water, sanitation, nutrition, necessary medical supplies and mental health support for children, both now and in the long term.
Al-Ali emphasizes the need to provide an atmosphere of safety and comfort to children and establish a sense of security and protection by moving them to a safe place as far as possible from the site of danger, in addition to offering them group therapy and individual sessions. therapy sessions for parents, as well as children, to help them overcome their anxiety and allow them to express their feelings through sport and the arts.
She confirms that children need more attention than adults to overcome the impacts of the earthquake, because children have seen their entire world collapse before their eyes and continue to feel the trauma intensely.
Victims of the earthquake, but also victims of the Syrian conflict
The Syrian Network for Human Rights, in a report released earlier this year, said it had documented the deaths of 6,319 Syrians due to the earthquake.
Among them, 2,157 victims were killed in Syrian areas not controlled by the Syrian regime and 321 in areas controlled by the Syrian regime. regime, while 3,841 Syrian refugees died in Türkiye.
The group stressed the need to investigate the reason for the delays in the response by the United Nations and the international community, as this has led to more preventable deaths of Syrians – and those responsible for these delays should be held accountable.
The network says the high number of deaths occurred in a highly populated area due to internal displacement due to the conflict within the Syrian regime.
Even more tragic, the report adds, these traumatized people have had to experience the horrors of indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime in the camps for displaced people in which they live.
With the aim of caring for earthquake orphans in Idlib Governorate, northern Syria, the Foundation (Basmat Nour) opened the Kuramaa Center to care for children.
The director of the Kuramaa Center, Muhammad Al-Junaid, told IPS: “Many children lost their families and loved ones during the devastating earthquake, which is why we opened this center which takes care of orphaned and meets all their educational and psychological needs. support activities and entertainment.
There are now 52 children at the center, which can accommodate up to 100.
Al-Junaid added: “The staff works hard to make the children smile, and our goal is to make them forget the pain they cannot bear and take care of them in every possible way to live a life normal in a family. “.
Eight-year-old Fatima Al-Hassan from Idlib lost her entire family in the earthquake. She lives in the center and has found tenderness and care.
“I spend my time teaching, drawing and playing with my peers in the nursing home.”
But Fatima still remembers her family with love and sadness. Report from the UN IPS Office
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service