Universities worldwide offer support for quake response
They are also promoting healing and resilience for their students, staff and employees who have been impacted by the catastrophic twin earthquakes.
Many more have sent messages of solidarity with and sympathy for the tens of millions of people directly affected in Türkiye and Syria.
With the death toll from the quake topping 21,000 as of Friday morning, it has become the deadliest earthquake disaster to strike anywhere on Earth in more than a decade.
Thousands of buildings throughout the region have collapsed, and rescuers are searching the rubble for survivors. Tens of thousands have been injured and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their homes in freezing conditions.
One university student, Zisan Avcioglu, aged 28, was pulled out alive from under a collapsed building by a rescue team on Friday after being trapped for 101 hours, Yeni Safak reported. The rescue team had spent nine hours trying to get her out.
Technical expertise and caregiver resources
Professor Hideo Ohno, president of Tohoku University in Japan, said in a statement issued on 9 February that Tohoku University will collaborate with Japanese and relevant local organisations in Türkiye and Syria.
“We will draw on our own experiences and the important work done by the International Research Institute of Disaster Science, and make every effort to support everyone affected, to help them face and overcome the challenging weeks and months ahead,” Ohno said.
“After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, Tohoku University established the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) in 2012 with the aim of contributing to the reconstruction and revitalisation of disaster-affected areas, as well as promoting the most advanced research on disaster science in the world.
Tohoku University’s IRIDeS hosted a webinar on 10 February that analysed the latest information coming out of Türkiye and Syria following the devastating earthquake that occurred on 6 February. Four leading experts delivered presentations based on the latest research from disaster science.
A University of Manchester-hosted charity, UK-Med, on Tuesday sent a rescue team to the Türkiye -Syria earthquake zone to lead the United Kingdom’s initial medical assessment team and provide healthcare for people affected by the disaster.
UK-Med CEO David Wightwick, who is also director of humanitarian interventions at the university’s Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, boarded a flight on Tuesday with a team of surgeons, paramedics, emergency medical staff, operations and logistics staff.
He said it will be an international co-ordinated response, and UK-Med and his team are “ready to deliver our crucial emergency medical care where it will be most needed”.
“Our overall aim will be to help support an overwhelmed health system and alleviate the suffering of those affected by the disaster.”
The first job of the team will be to conduct a health assessment of the disaster-affected areas, including assessing the functionality of any pre-existing health facilities.
Researchers at the Parenting and Families Research Group of the University of Manchester in the UK have released some brief and simple advice for parents and caregivers of children and young people affected by the earthquakes in Syria, Türkiye and neighbouring countries, including how to deal with children’s stress and keep them safe in these types of situations.
The two-page leaflet is available in Turkish, Arabic and English and also as an audio recording in these languages for downloading on a dedicated website developed for the earthquake response by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Prevention Treatment and Rehabilitation Section.
University’s role in healing and resilience
Universities around the world are offering academic help and making their counselling services, mental health support along with well-being resources available for their students and university staff who have been impacted by the catastrophic earthquake in Syria and Türkiye, as well as ways to help with the rescue and recovery.
For example, UK-based Loughborough University said: “We know that many of our university community may be feeling concerned, distressed and upset by the devastating news that earthquakes have hit Türkiye and Syria, resulting in thousands of deaths.
“If you are finding it difficult to deal with, please know that the university has a range of support available for you to access.”
Also, Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada said it “recognises the far-reaching impact of the major earthquakes that have devastated Syria and Türkiye”.
“Laurier International has reached out to our students with connections to these two countries to ensure they are supported during this difficult time. We want to remind all community members of the supports and resources in place.”
UK-based Middlesex University said: “Following the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, the university is reaching out proactively to students to offer personalised support during this incredibly challenging time.”
There are more than 47,000 Turkish students studying abroad for their undergraduate and graduate educations and they mostly travel to the United States, the UK, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, China, Malaysia, Hungary, Russia and Poland.
Syria is ranked 15 in the list of top outgoing student countries with the highest number of its students studying in Türkiye, Germany and Saudi Arabia, according to TIME Association’s 2021 International Student Mobility Report.
Clinical mental health counsellor Lili Burciaga, assistant professor of psychology at Lewis University, Illinois, US, told University World News that universities responding after a critical incident, such as the earthquakes in Türkiye-Syria, have a crucial role in promoting healing for those impacted in these communities.
“Those affected by the earthquakes are coping with a variety of behavioural, psychological, emotional and physical reactions, which is an expected response to traumatic events,” said Burciaga, who is also chair of the membership committee for the International Association for Resilience and Trauma Counseling.
She said people who are experiencing traumatic stress need to feel safe, have their basic needs met, and to have the support in place to make sense of their experience.
“While the majority experiencing traumatic stress after these recent events may recover, survivors with high exposure who lack sufficient support or experience ongoing adversity are more likely to face long-term impact,” said Burciaga, who is also an editorial board member of the Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology.
She said universities providing support will need to also consider how they may support students, faculty and community partners who need short-term or long-term emotional support as well as how they can help provide safety and ensure their basic needs are met.
“This may include assistance with housing, food, medical needs, supports for continuing education, as well as counselling,” Burciaga said.
“When universities provide the resources needed following an overwhelming and devastating situation like the recent earthquakes, they promote community healing and resilience.”
Universities join fundraising efforts
The Association of Private Sector Universities of Pakistan (APSUP) and the Pakistan Association of Private Medical and Dental Institutions (PAMI) on Friday urged all the private sector universities to help out the victims of the devastating earthquakes in south-eastern Türkiye and north-western Syria, APP reported.
APSUP Executive Director Murtaza Noor said that APSUP and PAMI have collectively launched the Mission Essar Earthquake Relief Fund for Türkiye and Syria to help ease the suffering of countless individuals and families who have lost their loved ones, their homes and their livelihoods. Superior University has already contributed PKR5 million (US$18,600).
UK-Med, the frontline medical aid charity based at the University of Manchester, has launched the Türkiye-Syria earthquake appeal for donations.
Turkish societies in UK universities including Kings College London, the University of Westminster, Imperial College London, London School of Economics and University College London, have joined together in a collaborative donation drive to collect money and goods on individual campuses before being sent off to Türkiye.
The Turkish Student Association at US-based Boston University is accepting donations of money and supplies. The funds collected will be directly transferred to the Bridge to Türkiye Fund which is collectively raising US$3 million for the ongoing search and rescue efforts.
Universities send messages of sympathy
Several universities around the world have send messages of solidarity and support to those affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.
President Lee Bollinger, president of US-based Columbia University said in a statement: “On behalf of the entire university community, I send my profound condolences to all those affected by this devastating tragedy.”
Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands said: “We are very shocked by the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. Our thoughts are with the victims and their loved ones.”
UK-based Durham University said in a statement: “We offer condolences to all those who have lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with people who may be struggling to contact friends and family as the situation continues to unfold.”
The University of Insubria (Università degli Studi dell’Insubria) in Italy said: “Our Athenaeum expresses solidarity and sympathy to the people affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. Our thoughts are with them in these terrible days.”
Rector of the University of Stavanger in Norway, Klaus Mohn, said: “This is a terrible disaster that affects many, including here at the university. We have employees and students from Türkiye and Syria. Others may have family, friends or acquaintances who may be affected.
“Our thoughts are with them all. I would like to encourage everyone to show special consideration for colleagues and fellow students who are now having a difficult time.”