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Initial earthquake aid is finally getting to Northwest Syria but more is needed


In the two weeks since an earthquake claimed tens of thousands of lives in Turkey and Syria, survivors in Syria have been pleading for help. Aid was relatively quick to reach Turkey, which is a NATO ally. But rescue efforts in northwest Syria were hampered by more than a decade of war between President Assad's regime and opposition groups.

Ismail Alabdullah is a volunteer with the Syria Civil Defence, better known as the White Helmets. The organization responds to emergencies in opposition-controlled parts of Syria. Their work includes evacuations and search and rescue. He joins us now from Idlib in northwest Syria. Good morning.


FADEL: So the U.N. says three border crossings into north Syria are now operational for aid deliveries, with dozens of trucks already on the way. What have you gotten so far?

ALABDULLAH: We received aid for those who now are homeless and for people who were affected by the earthquake because we called for the help from the very beginning, from first hour. We knew that, from the first hour, that the disaster is bigger than us. It's beyond our capacity. We said that we need help from the very beginning to help those who are beneath the rubble.

FADEL: Yeah.

ALABDULLAH: And we asked for advanced equipment to - can help us to locate those who - trapped beneath the rubble. But now the state of emergency - now somehow we not as the beginning. And this aid - I hope, as we all hope, this aid will be enough and the U.N. will deliver more and more.

FADEL: What do you still need?

ALABDULLAH: We're talking here about more than 40,000 people who were affected by the earthquake.

FADEL: Just in Idlib.

ALABDULLAH: Just in Idlib, across northwest Syria. This area - 40,000. Those people now are homeless, need shelter, need medical care. I give you an example to make it clear for everyone. Those people who are injured by the earthquake, they need surgeries. So, now, not all of them undergone surgeries, and they are waiting for their - a space, for a bed in the hospital to get the proper surgery.

So imagine this example. A pregnant woman has fracture and has - her condition is very, very bad. She was waiting for her - to get the surgery - proper surgery - and then get back to the camp. And she - in normal conditions, she needs maybe to stay in the hospital three months or four months to recover from this bad condition. But given the situation and due to the lack of the medical supplies and the hospitals here in northwest Syria, she has to go and to stay in the camps. So what we need - medical supply enough for those injured people. We need even psychological support for those after the shock, after the shock of the earthquake. And you heard and you - maybe you saw that an earthquake hit the region.

FADEL: Yes, another one - 6.3, yeah.

ALABDULLAH: Yeah. Yeah. It was - to be honest, this one - it was scary, more than the first one.

FADEL: Because?

ALABDULLAH: Because we experience it and we saw painful images and we witnessed people how they were under the rubble, entire families. It's very difficult.

FADEL: Ismail Alabdullah is a volunteer with the White Helmets in Idlib, Syria. Thank you so much for your time.

ALABDULLAH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.