M’sian team to focus on mental, emotional support in Turkiye and Syria

Over to you: Dr Ahmad Faizal (right) handing over food baskets for 234 families at the Al Hartmya camp in the Kaferhmul district, Syria.

PETALING JAYA: After six weeks of emergency rescue efforts in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes that hit Turkiye and Syria, Mercy Malaysia is transitioning into the post-recovery phase.

Its president Datuk Dr Ahmad Faizal Mohd Perdaus said that as the emergency subsides, the focus now would be on primary care, reproductive health and mental psychosocial support.

“In terms of food, we have to move away from emergency meals to sustainable ways of providing nutrition.

“Many people are still traumatised – even those whose houses were deemed safe are scared to return for fear of being crushed. The situation is very bad because thousands of people are still displaced.

“In Syria, the situation will unlikely change for six months due to the compounding war factor.

“In northeast Syria, the situation is very different because there is a lack of support with a weakened system caused by war and aggravated by the earthquake – as such they will need longer primary care,” he told The Star in an interview.

However, the Syrians are more resilient emotionally and mentally because after 12 years of war and living in shelters, they can better cope with hardship, he added.

Dr Ahmad Faizal said there are also a lot of people who have post-traumatic stress disorder while many – including children – are in despair or aimless about the future.

As such, they would require long-term mental and psychosocial support in the war-torn country.

“They are also in need of Arab bread, which is their staple food, as some donors have pulled out support and diverted funds to Turkiye, so we have to look at this aspect in Syria.

“Over in Turkiye, displaced people in shelters will be moved to container homes. Previously, we provided some 100 tents for victims, but now we have to look at more sustainable shelters,” he said.

Asked about some of the challenges, he said Mercy Malaysia has 24 years of experience, so it is able to overcome procedural and logistics issues.

He said that it has also built good networks locally, regionally and internationally, which may pose a challenge for other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

“In Syria, security issues remain. We still have to follow protocol, but we have good collaboration with immigration and security forces there.

“There are also not enough translators for Arab and Turkiye languages to assist all the NGOs,” he added.

To continue Mercy Malaysia’s work, Dr Ahmad Faizal said it needs funding, especially when rebuilding and reconstruction efforts are estimated to cost millions of dollars.

He said it is hoping for the generosity of people to help all those affected in Syria and Turkiye.

Dr Ahmad Faizal also said he is amazed over the tenacity of the Turkish people in helping each other.

He said their generosity and willingness to help everyone while making it easier for others to also help makes them stand out.

“There are some working around the clock six weeks into the devastation,” he added.

Mercy Malaysia deployed its first response team on Feb 7, comprising nine doctors, logistics, communications and technical experts, as well as translators.

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