August 4, 2023

Six months since the earthquake in Syria

Six months ago, White Helmets volunteers woke up to the devastating earthquake and sounds of screaming from our neighbors. As the scale of the disaster emerged we raced to save lives and I am so proud that we rescued 2,950 people from underneath the rubble in those critical days. My name is Ali Mohamad and I coordinate the White Helmets’ work to build the resilience of communities here in northwest Syria since the disaster, thanks in large part to the incredible generosity of people like you.

Thanks to your donations, we were able to perform lifesaving rescue operations while holding the hands of people trapped under walls and bricks. Knowing we had the support of people around the world strengthened our hearts as we carried out the difficult work of recovering the bodies of 2,172 victims to ensure they received a dignified burial. The outpouring of support from individuals like you was in stark contrast to severe and deadly delays in UN aid.

With no time to waste we quickly pivoted to recovery operations to prevent further suffering, painstakingly removing over 420,000 cubic meters of rubble and demolishing dangerously damaged buildings. Thousands of families lost their homes in the tragedy so we worked against the clock to prepare land for new camps. During a visit to one site, a community member told me, “thank you for being there, before and after the earthquake.” Although simple, this sentence holds enormous value for me as when the world largely turned its back against Syrians, we showed up.

With rubble removal behind us, we are faced with the daunting task of rehabilitating damaged buildings and public utilities. The people of Syria deserve dignified and sustainable support and we want to revive these communities, restore the economic cycle and reduce their reliance on humanitarian aid. Our volunteers have already ensured that over 7,000 homes in the vast Kafr Karmin and Al-Kamuna camps now have access to drinking water and sewage networks, and a new sewage network along the Sarmada-Bardaqli road is extending essential sanitation to over 6,000 civilians.

We didn’t think Syria could take any more destruction after years of deliberate bombing by the Syrian regime and Russia, but the earthquake took even more away. By December our 3,000 White Helmets volunteers aim to have rehabilitated over 20 health facilities, and more than 45 schools by the first quarter of 2024. In the face of such relentless hardship, faith keeps peoples’ spirits up. We have successfully rehabilitated Al-Yacubiyeh Church, and reconstruction of Al-Maland Mosque is underway.

Now, as ever, all our efforts remain aimed at restoring normalcy and dignity for Syrian communities who suffer so much regardless of their affiliation, race, or religion. Your support makes a huge difference, especially as international aid has become even less reliable, despite our hardships, following Russia’s veto of vital UN cross-border aid last month. The road to recovery from this unprecedented disaster is going to be long, so please continue to support our work by making a gift, six months since the terrible earthquake, to fund our rehabilitation projects.

In solidarity,
Ali Mohamad
Community Resilience Program Coordinator for The White Helmets