Portland-based nonprofit on front lines of earthquake in Middle East

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:47 PM PST
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PORTLAND, (KPTV) - Portland-based Mercy Corps, a humanitarian nonprofit, has been embedded in Syria helping thousands for over a decade. Now, a new crisis is presenting more challenges.

According to a statement from Mercy Corps, the area in Northwest Syria and parts of Turkey where a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Monday is also home to almost 2 million Syrians who fled to the area amid ongoing war in the country.

A Mercy Corps spokesperson says several dozen Syrians are employed by the nonprofit to provide aid for thousands of refugees in the region. They work with those displaced by brutal civil war in the country to meet basic needs like providing shelter, food, water, and hygiene.

Staff at Mercy Corps headquarters in Portland say this work will continue, but right now many of the aid workers have suffered their own loses from the earthquake.

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“We have team members who have lost children in the earthquake, who have lost their own family,” said communications director Lynn Hector. “So we’re focused on their safety. The needs are massive.”

Thousands are now without shelter because of the earthquake, and the team at Mercy Corps says cold weather is adding an extra challenge to thousands across the region now without homes. Another grave concern, according to Hector, is damage to the region’s drinking water supply.

“We’re already doing work with water and sanitation, and now that will be even more relevant,” said Hector. “There’s mud, there’s sediment in water sources, so we’re really concerned about a deterioration of that situation and the spread of water-borne illnesses.”

Visit Mercy Corp’s official website for more on the organization and how to contribute to aid workers’ recovery efforts in Northwest Syria.