February 16, 2023
Responding to disaster as a global community
The unbelievable devastation of the 7.8 earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria has brought a collective sadness to the world.
More than 40,000 people have been confirmed dead and the toll continues to rise. What can we do in times like these? We can honor their lives and recognize their loss. We can pause to express care and compassion for the heartbroken families and friends both locally and globally. We can also give of our resources through venues such as the UW Combined Fund Drive. And finally, if you or someone you know needs professional assistance processing what has happened, help is available. (Resources below)
We can also honor those who were so tragically killed or injured by taking to heart the lessons that are there to be learned.
There is no way to control tectonic plates. Their constant movement against each other will, at another time and place, result in another large magnitude earthquake such as the one that struck Turkey and Syria last week and/or an earthquake-generated tsunami such as the ones that wreaked havoc in Fukushima (2021), Phuket (Thailand, 2004), and Alaska (1964). What we can do is think ahead, plan ahead, and be ready to respond while taking measures to minimize the risk for those living in areas most subject to earthquakes or tsunamis.
We have observed the global response by healthcare professionals to the Turkey and Syria disaster. Television images show teams from around the world doing what they can to locate those buried in the rubble and treat those who are found alive. It was striking (though not surprising) to see how nurses rose to meet the crisis. We have seen coverage of the heroic actions of nurses such as Devlet Nizam and Gazel Caliskan on shift at a hospital in Gaziantep, Turkey who courageously stayed to protect the babies in the neonatal critical care unit when the earthquake struck and clung to incubators until the shaking finally ceased. Many more unnamed nurses risked their lives to carry babies and children to safety, usher patients out of rooms, and return over and over to ensure as many were saved as possible. It brings tears to my eyes just to think on their bravery and selflessness.
The global response of medical, healthcare, and support services demonstrates the dedication, selflessness and unity of healthcare professionals from countries large and small. It also shows how our solidarity, shared humanity and compassion can supersede borders, as we have watched rescue teams and health care professionals from countries that have otherwise been adversarial, such as Iran and Israel, work shoulder-to-shoulder to save lives and heal the injured.
The lesson of medical preparedness should be taken to heart by every country that sees itself as a member of an international community. There is an urgent need for more robust disaster and crisis health provision planning that gets first responders to the scene in hours, not days or weeks. Large amounts of medical supplies and mobile treatment facilities need to be available and ready to move when disaster strikes, without regard to borders or politics.
In times when our communities’ health and well-being are threatened, we must set aside politics and nationalism in order to respond as a single global community. There is no way to erase the painful tragedy or halt the earth from shaking, but it is our immutable responsibility to do what we can to prepare our communities, our people, and our first responders for when it does.
Accessing mental health care (Seattle campus students)
Counseling services (UW Tacoma students)
Counseling services (UW Bothell students)
UW CareLink (PEBB benefits eligible employees, their dependents and household members)