Vienna, 15 March 2023 – An expert team from global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS spent two weeks on-site in the regions in Southern Türkiye and Northern Syria that were heavily damaged by the catastrophic earthquakes in early February.
In cooperation with local organisations, they delivered a total of 125.5 tons of food for pets and farm animals in the affected areas so far. They visited multiple shelters to provide veterinary care to animals in need and helped transport injured animals to clinics. Moreover, FOUR PAWS was the only international animal welfare organisation that was able to help on-site in Syria as well.
In the upcoming months, FOUR PAWS will continue its support during the recovery efforts with food deliveries and stay in close contact with local organisations on the ground.
The FOUR PAWS experts travelled to rural areas in the Kahramanmaras region, which the government support often does not reach. There, the aid provided is essential for the survival of the animals and the livelihood of the families who own them. Due to good cooperation with the authorities, the team was able to cross the border to Syria for one day, where they worked tirelessly to distribute over 24 tons of animal food as well as medicine and treat injured animals in the Jindires region. FOUR PAWS was able to provide over 5,000 animals, including cats, dogs, goats, donkeys, cows, and sheep, with food for the next two months.
“The stories of so many people and animals we met are heartbreaking. We saw for ourselves how little many villagers have after the disaster, and how important their animals are to them. It is crucial that they keep receiving support for the coming weeks. There is a lack of everything. People sleep in tents and hope for help. Unfortunately, this help does not reach all the rural areas. Injured animals are waiting for treatment. Hungry animals waiting for food. We see relief in people’s faces when we take care of their animals, which are often the only thing they have left. While aid is in place in Türkiye, the devastation and lack of available help we encountered in Syria left us speechless. We will continue to make sure help for animals arrives where it is needed.”
FOUR PAWS veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil led the team on the ground and has decades of experience working in disaster and conflict zones.
FOUR PAWS will continue working together with local organisations to provide and distribute animal food in the coming months in multiple regions in Türkiye and Syria and is ready to help with whatever else is urgently needed during the recovery phase, which is expected to take a long time, to help as many animals in need as possible.
Encountering touching animal fates
While travelling from city to city to help in the earthquake zone, the FOUR PAWS team encountered many animal stories that touched their hearts. When they stayed at a dog shelter near Elbistan they examined a shy puppy named Puchiko, who had been trapped under a wall after the earthquake and suffered minor injuries that would need further examination at a bigger clinic.
Dr Khalil and his team visited cat Leo, who had survived under the rubble for 18 days and whom they had transported to a clinic the week before. Leo is making a good recovery and waiting to be reunited with his owner – another earthquake survivor – once she is released from hospital.
In Syria the FOUR PAWS team met the well-known ‘Cat Man of Aleppo’, a local activist who has been helping animals during the Syrian Civil War. They provided food and medicine and assisted with the treatment of a dog injured badly with an exposed bone they were then able to bring back to Türkiye with them to have him treated in a clinic.
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org