Above, left to right: Drs. Mehmet Vural, Amro Taha, Ahmed Ali, Ahmad Fahim Hedayat, Ali Rashidi, Fadi Khir and Ahmet Yassa stand near a truckload of donations.

Millions of people in Turkey and Syria are in need of food, shelter, medical supplies, and essential provisions in the aftermath of the area’s most powerful earthquake in modern history. To date, more than 42,000 people have lost their lives after two earthquakes with magnitudes of 7.8 and 7.6 rocked the area.

Called “the disaster of the century” by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, government agencies and humanitarian groups from all over the world have been working around the clock to provide help on the ground and deliver essential supplies.

The tragedy hits home for Turkish and Syrian medical residents at Weiss Memorial Hospital. Chief Resident Mehmet Vural, M.D., a Turkish citizen, has dedicated “every free moment” over the past two weeks to organize a medical supplies and essential needs drive at Weiss.

“I am a Turkish citizen helping the Turkish American Cultural Alliance and Turkish Consulate in Chicago to deliver medical supplies or any kind of essential items that are needed in the affected areas right now. In collaboration with Turkish Airlines, items are being delivered to Southeastern Turkey where most people were injured, perished, and left homeless in cold winter weather,” shared Dr. Vural.

He continued: “I was awake at 4:17 a.m. on Monday, February 6 when the first main shock hit the Mesopotamia region, the birthplace of the first civilizations on Earth and the place where three main tectonic plates intersect. My first reaction was that we need to send immediate help to those people in anticipation of the natural disaster. While my family is located farther away from the earthquake zone, they still felt the tremors of the main shock. I have many friends who died—who perished under rubble—and colleagues who lost their lives while actively working in the hospital,” Dr. Vural shared.

In Syria, a 12-year civil war has complicated relief efforts as the United Nations and humanitarian organizations struggle to deliver and distribute aid to more than 5 million Syrians affected by the earthquake.

“Both Syria and Turkey have been greatly affected by this tragedy. For Syria in particular, things are way more complicated. It’s very difficult to get many supplies there. On top of the suffering that has been going on there for years, it makes it even more important to help,” commented Internal Medicine Resident Fadi Khir, M.D., a Syrian native.

Fellow Internal Medicine Resident Ali Al Asadi, M.D., added, “It is critical to help. We are doing this because of the need we saw on the news and what we heard from our families. Syria is going through a tough time anyway, and now they are in need of even more help.”

Overwhelmed by the generosity of the Weiss community, Dr. Vural expressed his gratitude for being a part of and serving the Weiss family.

“I want to especially thank our attending physicians who helped remarkably. With their financial support we purchased baby formulas, blankets, canned food, gloves, heating pads, tents and many other essential needs for the families and infants,” Dr. Vural said.

“I would also like to thank Dr. Fadi Khir from Syria, Drs. Ahmet Yassa and Seyma Eroglu from Turkey, and Drs. Ahmed Ali from Egypt and Ali Rashidi from Iran, for their great help with supplies and logistics,” he added.

Dr. Vural and his friends made five trips to Costco using three different cars, to purchase a wide range of supplies, including blankets, diapers, sleeping bags, tents, lights and canned food. In addition to these essential supplies, Weiss donated many pharmaceutical medicines and antibiotics. Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Suzanne Pham also reached out to sister hospital West Suburban Medical Center to secure a large donation of essential surgical equipment.

To date, Dr. Vural has made eight trips to the Turkish Consulate and Turkish American Cultural Alliance to deliver provisions, medical supplies, and equipment donated from Weiss and West Suburban hospitals.

Engin Turesin of the Turkish Consulate General in Chicago expressed sincere gratitude on behalf of the Turkish and Syrian nations to the Weiss and West Suburban communities for their generous support. Given the ongoing earthquakes in the region, people will be in need of essential items for a very long period of time, Turesin noted.

If you would like to donate, please refer to Charity Navigator’s list of highly-rated charities providing relief and recovery to Turkey and Syria.