Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria

On February 6, 2023, two powerful earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks rocked southeastern Türkiye and northern Syria. Thousands of people lost their lives, and millions lost their homes.

The Situation

On Monday, February 6, 2023, two powerful earthquakes and hundreds of aftershocks rocked southeastern Türkiye (Turkey) and northern Syria. Across the two countries, nearly 56,000 people were killed, and more than 10 million were left in urgent need of help.

In Türkiye, the earthquakes killed at least 50,000 people and injured more than 100,000 people. Nearly 300,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed, 3 million people had to leave their homes, and 9.1 million were directly affected. Many people had a very difficult time after the disaster and could not return to their homes for fear that their buildings would collapse. Those who couldn’t leave had little access to clean running water or toilets. Basic education and health services were decimated. Women, children, the elderly, and people with other vulnerabilities were left without services, especially in terms of protection and health.

In Syria, the quake caused one of the biggest natural disasters to impact Syrian families in recent times. The shock of the earthquake piled on top of 12 years of conflict marked by crumbling infrastructure, financial collapse, coronavirus, soaring food prices, and a recent cholera outbreak, and forced more and more people deeper into poverty.

Meryem Aslan, Oxfam spokesperson in Ankara, said: "Even as Turkiye has a lot of expertise in dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes, the scale of this one is daunting," she explains. The number of survivors who may be left now with absolutely nothing is likely to be huge."

Civil defence workers and residents search through the rubble of collapsed buildings in the town of Harem near the Turkish border, Idlib province, Syria. Photo: Ghaith Alsayed/AP/Shutterstock

What is Oxfam Doing?

Over the past year since the earthquakes, Oxfam has supported over 2 million people in collective centers and communities across Türkiye and Syria, with water, sanitation, hygiene, food and livelihood support, and gender and protection services. We are grateful to our supporters and institutional donors for helping us to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve.

Emergency Response

As Oxfam had teams on the ground in both Syria and Türkiye, we were able to send rapid assessment teams into the worst affected areas within hours to assess the damage, impact, and people’s needs. The data gathered was immensely helpful in informing our planning. Our immediate focus overall was to provide emergency aid to the earthquake survivors. However, we tailored our approach to the different contexts in each country.

Syria: When the earthquake struck, Oxfam teams had been managing large humanitarian programs to address the needs of people suffering from more than a decade of conflict. We scaled up and adjusted those programs to cover the urgent needs of those affected by the quake.

Türkiye: Government agencies and local civil society have extensive humanitarian capacity from years of providing relief to refugee communities. Building on our 37 years of experience supporting women-led development and networks in Türkiye, we decided to supplement and enhance the larger response and invest in women-led local recovery and development in Türkiye. Through the 1999 Marmara earthquake response, we’ve learned that no response can be successful without tackling existing social and economic inequalities in the long run. We decided to concentrate on the harshly hit towns and villages near the fault line while also dedicating attention to underserved communities.

One Year On

A year after the earthquake, people are still suffering. At Oxfam, we have shifted from providing life-saving aid to a longer-term recovery plan that seeks to improve and restore lives in the communities affected by the disaster. While the first stage of the response is now largely over, the work to rebuild lives and livelihoods has merely begun.

  • Our team in Syria continues to support people with the assistance they need to survive these difficult times and restore their dignity after a year of hardship and trauma, on top of the ongoing conflict that has destroyed much of the infrastructure in their country.
  • In Türkiye, we are establishing dialogue and negotiation channels with government agencies and humanitarian actors to help women and their communities influence decision-making and advance localization of the aid agenda over the long term.
  • We are supporting survivors and refugees to have a voice in the reconstruction of their cities as safe and resilient communities – investing in particular in women’s capacities to access and control resources.
  • In Türkiye, we’ve now mapped water needs of approximately 20 villages in Adiyaman, and we are developing plans to service these villages in 2024.
  • We will continue to provide cash and material support to women cooperatives, entrepreneurs, and women engaged in agriculture and livestock farming in Türkiye’s rural areas.
  • We continue to work on the distribution of winter clothes, with 3,433 winter clothes kits scheduled to be distributed in 2024 in Gaziantep and Hatay, targeting 15,000 individuals.
  • The Women’s Coalition in Türkiye, of which Oxfam KEDV is a member, will distribute 3,000 hygiene kits on Oxfam’s behalf in Adıyaman in 2024.

Read our full report here

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Background media: A security officer walking among collapsed buildings and rubble.
Photo: Ahmet Yukus/Depo Photos via ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock

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