Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria: one year later, the recovery continues

by Oxfam Canada | February 2, 2024
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Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria: one year later, the recovery continues

A devastating, 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria in the early hours of February 6, 2023

Background media: Two people wearing Oxfam branded vests discuss logistics.
Oxfam Staff members in Turkiye discussing matters to efficiently coordinate the emergency support in the camp. Photo: Delizia Flaccavento/Oxfam

When a massive earthquake hit southern Türkiye and northern Syria in early February 2023, it affected people in Syria already suffering through more than a decade of war. One of them was Khadjia, a married mother of five children whose home was partly destroyed. The family struggled to get clean water, keep warm, find enough food, and meet their basic hygiene needs. Oxfam provided her family with hygiene kits consisting of soap, washing powder, shampoo, menstrual pads, a bucket, and some other items. Oxfam also provided dignity kits with women’s underwear, headscarves, socks, solar lamps, and other items to help women and girls maintain their dignity, hygiene, and safety. “We were in the dark almost every night, but the solar lamp we received gave us some light,” Kadjia said. “It was my favorite item.”

Massive damage from earthquake, aftershocks

The earthquake that hit Kadjia and her family in Syria on February 6th in 2023 also a affected a large area of southern Türkiye and was quite powerful: 7.8 magnitude. Over the coming hours and days, numerous aftershocks continued as the death toll mounted: Nearly 56,000 people were killed, and roughly 10 million were left in urgent need of assistance.

In the year following the earthquakes, Oxfam KEDV in Türkiye and Oxfam in Syria helped more than 2 million people with clean water, sanitation systems, cash, hygiene items and clothes and blankets, food, and services to help people at risk of gender-based violence. Oxfam KEDV and our partners reached 192,170 of the 500,000 people in Türkiye we are committing to help by 2026. In 2023 in Syria, Oxfam and our partner Syrian Society for Social Development (SSSD), supported 1,852,929 individuals hit hardest by earthquakes across four governorates.

Khadijah was severely affected by the earthquake in Aleppo and uses the hygiene supplies she earlier received from Oxfam. Photo: Islam Mardini/ Oxfam

Water, sanitation, and hygiene

Türkiye: We supported the repair of municipal water systems that helped more than 80,000 people with access to clean water, and rehabilitated a 3,200 cubic meter water tank in the Kahramanmaraş Temporary Accommodation Center, serving 28,000 people. Oxfam installed 1,285 toilets, installed 731 showers, and 221 toilets optimized for people living with disabilities. We distributed 9,311 hygiene kits, 2,504 hygiene cash vouchers (to help people buy hygiene items), 684 baby kits, and 1,169 elderly kits, 15,641 menstrual and dignity kits/cash vouchers.

Syria: Oxfam provided safe water by truck to more than 1 million people in shelters. We cleaned water tanks in these collective shelters, which served more than 24,000 people, and installed communal water tanks (filled daily) that served nearly 39,000 people. We made sure the latrines in collective shelters were clean and safe to use, assigning 30 trained latrine attendants in shelters to supervise the cleaning process in addition to providing latrine cleaning kits. This assistance reached 94,124 people. Oxfam helped repair and improve water and sanitation systems serving 2.4 million people. Oxfam trained 63 hygiene promoters who reached 98,366 people, and we distributed essential hygiene items to 326,730 people.

An Oxfam hygiene promoter delivers information sessions and distributes anti-lice shampoo to residents in a shelter in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: Islam Mardini/ Oxfam

Food and livelihoods

Türkiye: In response to the economic challenges faced by 400 households, we distributed vouchers to cover both their food and non-food necessities. Additionally, we identified and registered 440 of the most vulnerable households for cash assistance. For 299 farming families, we provided crucial animal feed, along with distributing 982 seedlings to support local farmers.

Syria: In light of soaring food prices and the difficulty in accessing food, Oxfam took action by offering cash aid to 21,341 individuals affected by the earthquake and belonging to the most vulnerable groups in Aleppo. This assistance empowered them to purchase essential food items or restart their businesses. Oxfam also undertook the repair and upgrade of two bakeries, ensuring their capacity to produce enough bread for 95,000 people. Repairs are underway at an additional five bakeries. In Aleppo, we supplied dry yeast to bakeries, indirectly benefiting 5,629,923 individuals across four governorates, with a majority in Aleppo.

Safety and protection

Türkiye: Oxfam is teaming up with local government, UN agencies, and the private sector to run nine Women and Children’s Centers (currently six are up and running, three more in the pipeline for 2024). Additionally, there are three Women's Solidarity Centers doing their thing. These spots provide practical services like psycho-social support, referral services, pre-school education, and childcare. On top of that, they're hosting workshops to help women make some income. These programs are making a difference for 1,953 folks from households hit by the earthquake, single-parent homes, families with pregnant or nursing women, those with members living with disabilities, and Syrian refugees.

Syria: Oxfam stepped in where it counted, giving individual protection assistance to 90 people dealing with physical or mental disabilities and survivors of gender-based violence. We got 17,927 dignity kits to women and girls, and our team had candid talks about menstrual hygiene and gender equality with 480 teenage girls in 12 schools across Aleppo, Lattakia, and Hama. We handed out menstrual pads and soap to these students. To tackle the cold, we handed out 494 blankets, 10,021 winter kits, and solar lights to folks in rural Aleppo and Idlib. This move wasn't just about keeping people warm; it was about easing the burden of buying winter gear when times are tough.

Recovery and reconstruction continue in 2024

A year after the earthquake, the needs are still great for the people of Syria and Türkiye. At Oxfam, we have shifted from providing live-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 just begun.

Türkiye: We’ve now mapped water needs of approximately 20 villages in Adiyaman, and are developing plans to service these villages in 2024. 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. We will continue to provide cash and material support to women cooperatives and entrepreneurs and women farmers in Türkiye’s rural areas. We continue to distribute winter clothes, and will help ensure refugee- and women-led organizations have a voice in decisions about the ongoing reconstruction process in earthquake-affected areas.

Syria: Our team 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 the midst of adversity, Oxfam provided essentials, including hygiene and dignity kits, offering not just aid but hope. Khadija's favorite item, a solar lamp, became a beacon of strength during dark nights. Your support fueled stories like Khadija's, turning challenges into triumphs. As we look forward to 2024, the journey of recovery and reconstruction in Syria and Türkiye continues.

At any given time, Oxfam is responding to over 30 emergency situations around the world. Please donate today.

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