Connolly Leads Bipartisan Letter to USAID Urging Continued Assistance for Türkiye and Syria Following Earthquakes
Washington, February 17, 2023
Tags: Foreign Policy
Today, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and President Emeritus of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, led 34 Members of Congress in sending a bipartisan letter to USAID Administrator Samantha Power urging continued assistance for Türkiye and Syria following the devastating earthquakes that have claimed tens of thousands of lives across both countries.
“We commend USAID and the United States government’s swift response to the humanitarian crisis,” wrote the Members. “By deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and courageous Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Los Angeles County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia, within hours of the earthquake, your agency’s rapid action will unquestionably save lives.”
The Members identified the following urgent needs on the ground:
“We appreciate USAID’s expeditious response and for your attention to meet these requests and support ongoing efforts by partners in the region that include: search and rescue efforts, the funding of humanitarian response plans, the provision of water and sanitation services, an increase in food security and nutrition programs, the establishment of safe temporary housing for displaced families and field hospitals to assist those injured in the earthquake, and continued support for needs existing prior to the disaster,” said the Members in closing.
In addition to Connolly, the letter was signed by Representatives Auchincloss, Boyle, Blunt Rochester, Castro, Cohen, Dean, DeSaulnier, Dingell, Doggett, Evans, Gottheimer, Hayes, Jacobs, Kamlager-Dove, Keating, Lynch, McCollum, McGovern, Moore, Morelle, Moulton, Omar, Pascrell, Pocan, Sánchez, Stevens, Titus, Tlaib, Trone, Veasey, Wasserman Schultz, Wexton, Wild, Zinke.
Full text of the letter is available here and below.
Dear Administrator Power,
We write following the devastating earthquake and aftershocks that rocked south Türkiye and northwest Syria and killed more than 34,000 people and with tens of thousands more injured.
We commend USAID and the United States government’s swift response to the humanitarian crisis. By deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) and courageous Urban Search and Rescue Teams from Los Angeles County, California and Fairfax County, Virginia, within hours of the earthquake, your agency’s rapid action will unquestionably save lives.
Before the earthquake, Türkiye was already facing severe economic and refugee crises. Many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees that Türkiye generously hosts reside in the South near the earthquake’s epicenter. Tens of thousands have been killed and injured in Türkiye alone, and as a result of destroyed buildings and infrastructure, widespread outages of utilities and vital services will inflict further suffering. With no heat, families will have to endure freezing temperatures and heavy winds with rain or snow without adequate shelter.
With many of the affected victims in rebel-controlled northwestern Syria, political dynamics have made aid delivery even more difficult. 12 years of conflict have left civilians in the region, especially women and children, particularly vulnerable, and thus far, search and rescue teams have only reached a small percentage of the affected areas. Without sustained access to humanitarian assistance and basic services, close collaboration with partners in northwestern Syria, including the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) and the Syrian American Medical Society, will be essential.
Even as nongovernmental organizations are striving to ensure the safety of their staff and process the shock and loss of this disaster, they continue to support their communities, and have identified the following urgent needs in order to navigate the ongoing crisis and further aid the affected victims.
We respectfully request USAID continue to brief House of Representatives and Senate offices on the ongoing relief efforts and funding levels needed to sustain such U.S. assistance.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this request. We stand by for any support we can provide to the Agency and those impacted by this disaster.