On Feb. 6, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake occurred in southern Turkey near the northern border of Syria. This quake was followed approximately nine hours later by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake located around 59 miles (95 kilometers) to the southwest.
The first earthquake was the most devastating to hit earthquake-prone Turkey in more than 20 years and was as strong as one in 1939, the most powerful recorded there. It was centered near Gaziantep in south-central Turkey, home to thousands of Syrian refugees and the many humanitarian aid organizations also based there.
The Turkish government is leading the response there through coordination by AFAD and with the Turkish Red Crescent. State authorities declared a level-4 emergency leading to a call for international assistance. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 of the country’s provinces.
Governments around the world were quick to respond to requests for international assistance, deploying rescue teams and offering aid. The country of Turkey is recognized in English as Türkiye by the United Nations (UN).
As of March 1, more than 11,000 aftershocks occurred according to Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). Aftershocks are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
(Photo: Members of the Turkish Armed Forces conduct search and rescue efforts after the earthquake, Feb. 7, 2023. (Source: Republic of Türkiye Ministry of National Defence via Twitter)
On Feb. 20, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake killed three people and injured 213 in southern Turkey. On Feb. 27, a magnitude 5.6 earthquake shook southern Turkey, causing damaged buildings to collapse and killing at least one person.
According to ACAPS, new earthquakes are among the worst-case scenarios for the region because they could impact humanitarian needs and the ability to meet them. Damaged buildings are at high risk of collapse, and survivors may continue to experience ongoing fear while also beginning to deal with lasting trauma.
Syria’s current complex humanitarian emergency is among the largest humanitarian crises in the world and the earthquake will only exacerbate the situation and vulnerabilities. One obstacle in providing aid quickly in Syria is that the government does not control all of the northwest, the area hardest hit by the earthquake. Coordinated assistance by the UN to Syria’s northwest arrives across the border from Turkey, while Damascus is where assistance is coordinated within the rest of government-controlled Syria.
In northwest Syria, 4.1 million people depend on humanitarian assistance, the majority of whom are women and children. While countries have offered to support Turkey, and the country has disaster management structures to support the response, getting aid to affected Syrians is likely to be more difficult, considering the country is not controlled by one authority.
On Feb. 12, Martin Griffiths, the UN’s top aid official, said, “We have so far failed the people in north-west Syria. They rightly feel abandoned. Looking for international help that hasn’t arrived.” The UN says it is scaling up its cross-border aid operation.
As of Feb. 14, three border-crossing points were opened for UN aid delivery: Bab Al-Hawa, Bab Al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee.
As of March 24, more than 1,000 trucks loaded with aid had crossed into northwest Syria since Feb. 9. However, hostilities in the region have largely remained since the disaster, prompting accusations that life-saving aid was being politicized.
According to a REACH rapid assessment involving 604 communities in northwest Syria, winterization, shelter and multi-purpose cash support were cited as the top priority.
Following the earthquake, a dam collapsed in northwestern Syria, causing the overflow of the Orontes River. The flood led to the displacements of people from the village of Al-Tlul in the Idlib governorate. Approximately 7,000 people were evacuated, and 1,000 houses flooded across the nearby villages of Hardana, Delbiya, Jakara and Hamziyeh.
On March 15, floods caused by heavy rains resulted in the deaths of 15 people in the southern Turkey provinces of Sanliurfa and Adiyaman. Two people died in Adiyaman when waters swept away a container home where a group of earthquake survivors was living. Some people were evacuated from a waterlogged campsite where earthquake survivors were sheltering in tents.
On March 18, heavy rainfall and storms affected northwest Syria, destroying around 600 tents and damaging 897. Most of these tent sites were created for displaced people following the earthquakes.
The floods are an example of an indirect and cascading disaster impact that humanitarians must account for while trying to minimize risk as they provide assistance and begin recovery. The displaced population affected by the dam collapse and subsequent flooding is partially returning. However, the dam cannot be repaired immediately, and people are at risk of catching waterborne diseases.
Earthquakes are among the most devastating natural hazards. Turkey’s two main fault zones make the region one of the most seismically active in the world. Natural hazards only become disasters when they interact with a human society or community, referred to as vulnerability in disaster studies.
In this disaster, vulnerability looks like poorly constructed buildings that do not meet modern earthquake building standards, thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey or displaced people in northwest Syria that live in informal settlements, destruction of infrastructure within Syria after years of war and aerial bombings, an ongoing complex humanitarian emergency in Syria due to conflict, and a cholera outbreak.
Funders can help minimize the impact of this unfolding disaster and additional disasters in Turkey and Syria by advocating for safe building construction, supporting risk communication campaigns, investing over the long-term to ensure full recovery that incorporates risk reduction, and strengthening preparedness and resilience.
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, February 27
The Patterson Foundation Contributes $375,000 to CDP’s Turkey & Syria Earthquake Recovery Fund
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, February 20
What we’re watching: Weekly disaster update, February 13
3 ways to support survivors of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
- Three weeks since the Feb. 6 earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks, the disaster’s death toll continues to climb. The earthquakes and underlying vulnerabilities resulted in the deaths of at least 56,000 people in Turkey and Syria. Aid workers are among those killed.
- The humanitarian community estimates that 8.8 million people live in areas most affected by the earthquake in Syria. Overall, 170 sub-districts in 43 districts in 10 of Syria’s governorates have been impacted by the earthquake. Prior to the earthquake more than 15 million people in Syria were already in need of assistance in 2023.
- On Feb. 8, Turkey’s President Erdogan admitted to problems with his government’s initial response amid frustration with the pace of relief and the earthquake’s devastation. Turkey is investigating some contractors, but the entire political and economic system is arguably implicated.
- The UN and humanitarian partners have launched an earthquake Flash Appeal for Syria covering February to March 2023. The Flash Appeal requests $397.6 million to reach 4.9 million people and is complementary to the 2022-2023 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP).
- An earthquake Flash Appeal for Turkey was announced on Feb. 17 and covers February to April 2023. Turkey’s Flash Appeal requests $1 billion to reach 5.2 million people.
- On Feb. 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it was issuing a 180-day “general license” for earthquake relief in Syria, which is effectively a suspension of sanctions.
- At least 230,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed across 11 provinces in Turkey and at least 10,600 buildings have been completely or partially destroyed in northwest Syria. In Aleppo alone, around 3,500 buildings are damaged and need structural repair and 700 buildings are classified as unsafe.
- According to the World Bank’s Global Rapid Post-Disaster Damage Estimation (GRADE) Report, direct damages in Turkey from the earthquakes are estimated at $34.2 billion. The report says the reconstruction costs “will be higher depending on the extent of new construction codes and guidelines being used.”
- The Syria Earthquake 2023 Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA) found that the country’s real gross domestic product is expected to contract by 5.5% in 2023 following the February 6 and February 20 earthquakes.
- The Syria Earthquake 2023 RDNA says physical damages caused by the earthquake are estimated at $3.7 billion, while losses are estimated at US $1.5 billion. The total estimated impact to US $5.2 billion. The GRADE Report for Syria had estimated $5.1 billion in direct physical damages. The RDNA estimates recovery and reconstruction needs across the six assessed governorates at $7.9 billion.
- As of March 15, more than 103,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have been recorded in northwest Syria since the first earthquake struck on Feb. 6. The International Organization for Migration reports that 3 million people have been displaced by the earthquakes in Turkey.
- UNDP said the earthquakes generated at least 10 times as much rubble in Turkey as the last big Turkish earthquake in 1999. Both affected countries face the daunting task of disposing of hundreds of millions of tonnes of rubble, some of it potentially harmful.
- In Turkey, access to education has been hampered for nearly 4 million children, including 350,000 refugee and migrant children.
Existing humanitarian crisis worsened
In northwest Syria, the hardest hit area of the country, 4.1 million people already depend on humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian community estimates that 8.8 million people live in areas that have been most affected by the earthquake in Syria.
After 12 years of conflict and recent earthquakes, the World Food Programme says 12.1 million people in Syria, more than 50% of the population, are currently food insecure and a further 2.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger. Almost three weeks after the earthquake, food prices in Syria remained high in the affected areas. Prices of diesel fuel and livestock are also on the rise.
According to UNOCHA, “In 2022, 85 per cent of households [in Syria] were unable to meet their basic needs, with a disproportionate impact on populations with vulnerabilities compounded by age, gender, and/or disability. In a country where only 59 per cent of hospitals, 57 per cent of primary health care facilities and 63 per cent of specialized centres were fully functional before the earthquake, this earthquake will result in a further collapse of basic services, and significantly delay any scope for recovery.”
The Syrian complex humanitarian emergency is characterized by more than 10 years of ongoing hostilities and their long-term effects, including large-scale internal and cross-border displacement, widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, and significant violations of international humanitarian law. In the wake of the earthquakes, there was a lull in fighting; however, as detailed in a March 23 briefing to the UN Security Council, UN officials warned of the slow rise in shelling exchanges, rocket fire and crossline raids by terrorist groups.
There are concerns about how the disaster will affect assistance for millions displaced by conflict in a region with broad and significant long-term needs. Humanitarian access from Turkey to northwest Syria grew with the opening of Bal Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee border crossings on Feb. 14 for an initial period of three months. Until this development, the Bab al-Hawa border crossing was the only one authorized by the UN Security Council for aid shipments. As of March 24, more than 1,000 trucks loaded with aid had crossed into northwest Syria since Feb. 9. Nearly 800 of these trucks passed through the Bab al-Hawa border crossing.
As Leen Fouad articulates in this ODI blog, Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad has long viewed cross-border aid operations into the opposition-held northwest as an infringement of Syria’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, the Syrian regime continues to politicize earthquake aid. For example, the government blocked crossline aid convoys to people impacted by the earthquake in government-held Aleppo city. Fouad says “the international humanitarian community must ensure that aid continues to uphold humanitarian principles and reach the most vulnerable.”
The International Rescue Committee’s policy, advocacy and communications director for Middle East and North Africa Mark Kaye said, ”For this area, you have to remember: This population [was] already highly vulnerable. They have a huge amount of people who have already been displaced — sometimes as many as 20 times … Almost the majority of them are women and children, particularly vulnerable to the harsh weather and this earthquake.”
In their Feb. 25 northwest Syria Situation Report, UNOCHA said, “The border crossing closure pre-dating the earthquake is escalating health needs: Before the quakes, around 30 cases from Syria per day crossed the borders to get medical attention in Türkiye. Since the border closure, this capacity to receive quality health support has been affected.”
On March 7, several airstrikes were reported around the Aleppo Airport forcing it to shut down until further notice. The closure has resulted in the suspension of all flights from Aleppo for the UN Humanitarian Air Service. The closure could have severe humanitarian implications for people in Aleppo, one of the worst earthquake-impacted governorates in Syria.
According to survey results released by Oxfam on March 14, “Three in every four people in Aleppo have had to reduce daily meals since the earthquake and nearly all of them say they have taken on extra debt or their children out of school in order to cope.” Twenty-two percent of respondents had lost their jobs or sources of income, and 37% had borrowed money to cover their families’ needs.
In their March 27 Syria Earthquake Situation Report, OCHA said there is “a need to provide support to farmers and agricultural activities in urban areas.” In Turkey, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said the earthquakes caused $6.7 billion in losses and damage to crops, livestock production, food stocks, agricultural infrastructure and assets. These damages may affect food security in the country. Meeting the food security and livelihood needs of underserved populations in Turkey is proving challenging, especially in rural areas and informal settlements.
Damage assessments are ongoing. However, at least 230,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed across 11 provinces in Turkey and at least 10,600 buildings have been completely or partially destroyed in northwest Syria. In Aleppo alone, around 3,500 buildings are damaged and need structural repair and 700 buildings are classified as unsafe.
UNOCHA said in its March 17 Turkey Earthquake Situation Report that “2.3 million people have been identified as living in formal and informal settlements across earthquake affected areas as of 16 March. Out of this number, 1.6 million have been identified to be living in informal settlements.”
According to Turkey’s AFAD, as of March 1, 358,000 tents had been set up and tent cities have been established in 11 provinces. The number of people provided with shelter services in and outside of Turkey’s disaster zone is more than 1.9 million.
According to the World Bank’s Global Rapid Post-Disaster Damage Estimation Report, direct damages in Turkey from the earthquakes are estimated at $34.2 billion. The total direct damages are mostly damages to residential buildings ($18 billion or 53% of total). The report says that based on global experience, “recovery and reconstruction costs will be much larger, potentially twice as large” as the $34.2 billion figure.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will start building tens of thousands of new homes as early as March. Additionally, Erdogan said the new buildings will be no taller than four stories, built on firmer ground and to higher standards. On Feb. 25 Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said at least 184 people have been detained over alleged negligence concerning collapsed buildings following the quakes. However, the government has been criticized for overlooking poor construction standards.
According to UNOCHA in their March 23 Turkey Earthquake Situation Report, “The Turkish Government has devised a comprehensive recovery plan for the majority of those affected by the earthquake, which involves transitioning from Tent Cities to Container Cities or appropriate rental housing. However, it is widely acknowledged that there are families who are either unwilling, ineligible, unable, or simply waiting to relocate to the government-designated pathway. These families may choose or have no choice but to stay in informal sites.”
The GRADE Report for Syria estimates $5.1 billion in direct physical damages. The World Bank says, “Direct damages to residential buildings account for nearly half of total damages (48.5% of the median value or US$2.5 billion), while damages in non-residential buildings (e.g., health facilities, schools, government buildings, and private sector buildings) account for one third of the total impact (33.5% or US $9.7 billion).”
Additionally, the GRADE Report for Syria found that “Aleppo (population of 4.2 million) was the most severely hit governorate with 45% of the estimated damages (US$2.3 billion) followed by Idlib (37% or US$1.9 billion) and Lattakia (11% or US$549 million).”
UNOCHA’s March 9 Syria Earthquake Situation Report says, “The continuous change in the number of collective shelters and their residents, which to date has reached 100 shelters for around 48,431 people in Aleppo City, constitutes a serious challenge for the humanitarian response.”
In the same Situation Report, the Humanitarian Country Team’s (HCT) statement regarding settlement establishment included, “At present, government authorities are moving toward the planning and establishment of ‘temporary’ settlements in the GoS [Government of Syria] areas to provide short/ medium term shelter for those most affected. While the shelter sector has provided preliminary assistance on the planning of a settlement, intersector/HCT clarity is required around the principles and parameters of same.”
The Shelter/Non-Food Item (SNFI) cluster estimated that 280,000 people in northwest Syria are in immediate need of shelter and NFIs support due to the earthquakes. Outside of northwest Syria, the SNFI sector is in urgent need of funding for activities in Syria as the funding gap has reached $35.8 million as of March 16.
According to The New Humanitarian, “Last month’s deadly earthquakes have made an already massive shelter crisis in northwest Syria much worse, with both aid groups and newly displaced people concerned that long-term efforts to rehouse millions in the battered region have been set back years.”
New guidance from the Shelter/NFI Cluster in northwest Syria says the Humanitarian Leadership Group (HLG) supports “improved temporary shelters for people facing protracted displacement…” Additionally, the guidance says, “At this stage, while the conflict in Syria continues, the HLG is not supporting any construction of permanent housing for displaced people in NW Syria.”
Snow and near-freezing conditions pose serious health risks to people in earthquake-affected areas. Winter clothing and supplies, including heating equipment, remains a critical need.
Speaking on CNN after the earthquake, meteorologist Karen Maginnis described the risks of the winter storm: “Hundreds of thousands of people are impacted by this. It is cold. It is rainy. Roads could be impacted, that means your food, your livelihood, the care for your children, the care for your family.”
As with most disasters and emergencies, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs and quickly re-establishing access to basic needs.
UNOCHA identified cash assistance as a primary need following the earthquake in their first flash update after the disaster.
According to a REACH rapid assessment involving 604 communities in northwest Syria, multi-purpose cash assistance was the top priority need among affected communities. According to the northwest Syria Cash Working Group, humanitarian partners distributed cash assistance worth $6.3 million, benefiting more than 196,000 people in 81 communities in Idleb and Aleppo governorates.
The Center for Disaster Philanthropy recommends cash both as a donation method and a recovery strategy. Direct cash assistance can allow families to purchase items and services that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash-based approaches to disaster recovery also give people the freedom to choose how they rebuild their lives and provide a pathway to economic empowerment.
CALP Network compiled information and advice for those involved in cash and voucher assistance programming in Turkey and Syria drawing on learning from comparable crises.
Striking without warning, earthquakes often are among the most devastating natural hazards. The aftermath of an earthquake can bring immediate and long-term health impacts, especially in lower-middle-income countries. This is especially concerning in the context of Syria where a cholera outbreak was spreading before the earthquake.
Many hospitals in northwestern Syria were left non-operational due to damage from the earthquake, and patients were stranded. As of March 6, at least 55 health facilities have been damaged post-earthquakes in northwest Syria.
Between Aug. 25 August and March 4, 100,598 suspected cholera cases were reported from all 14 governorates, including 104 associated deaths. The earthquake had a significant impact on the cholera response operations. Several weeks after the earthquake, thousands of people are still housed in overcrowded emergency shelters, and many lack adequate access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene.
The number of people with mental health conditions is expected to increase post-earthquake while also limiting access for many people in need to the already scarcely available mental health services in Syria. According to UNOCHA, in northwest Syria, 994,500 persons have a mental disorder, and 229,500 have severe mental disorders. However, only 24 psychologists are available in the area.
In their March 27 Syria Earthquake Situation Report, OCHA said, “Mental health needs continue to increase; mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) has been reported as the most needed service. Psychosocial needs remain high and are of particular concern for pregnant women as stress during pregnancy can increase complications, including premature birth and first trimester loss.”
CDP’s NGO partners have reported that an immediate significant need in northwest Syria is access to clean water. Damage assessments to water boreholes are ongoing as well as conducting assessments on water quality. Given the existing cholera outbreak and damage to already fragile water infrastructure, there are concerns about a possible spike in waterborne diseases. There are reports that wells are at high risk of collapsing. Equipment for water analysis and monitoring is critically needed.
Water, sanitation and hygiene issues are pressing in Turkey as well, with data showing a high number of people per toilet and shower ratios within affected area campsites. There are also concerns about increasing health issues within tent camps. The gap in access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene facilities can lead to poor health outcomes, the spread of diseases and exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. Scaling up services for sexual and reproductive health and violence against women, girls and other individuals in situations of vulnerability is another need.
In the Syria earthquake Flash Appeal launched by the UN and humanitarian partners, one of the three strategic objectives is to “support livelihoods and basic services in areas affected by the earthquake.”
Support for livelihoods will include providing short-term employment for debris clearance and small-scale rehabilitations. The early recovery and livelihoods sector response includes supporting the immediate livelihood needs of the affected population by distributing multi-purpose cash.
Mental health and psychosocial support
The earthquake affected people already displaced and will result in new displacements, which are a significant change in people’s way of life, perhaps including loss of livelihood, extreme poverty and damaged social support structure. Because of the ongoing conflict, displaced Syrians also may have post-traumatic stress disorder.
According to the Syria earthquake Flash Appeal, “The onset of this disaster is expected to further deplete people’s abilities to cope, increasing the risks of reliance on dangerous coping mechanisms to survive. Humanitarian workers, first responders and members of civil defence have also been severely affected.”
Survivors of the deadly earthquakes are forced to deal with lasting trauma. In northwest Syria, psychological first aid, case management and safe service points are overwhelmed with rising needs.
Providing support for psychosocial and mental health support is critical.
After a disaster, protecting vulnerable individuals and ensuring access to their basic rights are immediate priorities.
According to UNOCHA, “Gender inequality exacerbates the impact of disasters, and the impacts of disasters exacerbate gender inequality and vulnerability. Of particular concern are vulnerable women, children, older persons and persons with disabilities who are disproportionally affected. Learning from other similar contexts, the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse will likely increase with the limitation of mobility in the earthquake response, disruption of social safety nets and the lack of information around confidential reporting mechanisms makes it difficult for survivors (including children) to access whatever response services remain operational.”
CARE, a humanitarian organization, has prepared its first Rapid Gender Analysis (RGA) Brief for the earthquake. The RGA “explores existing gender, age and disability data and information to understand pre-existing vulnerabilities and capacities and how best humanitarians can respond to meet people’s different needs.” Recommendations to humanitarian actors, international non-government organizations and AFAD include:
- Collaborate with relevant local and national actors, including women-led organizations and women’s rights organizations who are often leading GBV prevention and response efforts.Assess sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment risk factors and integrate these into program planning and ensure all stakeholders have been informed about services and referral pathways.
Humanitarian organizations have expressed concern for unaccompanied children in Syria. According to World Vision, “The already stretched child protection system in northwest Syria is now inundated with extremely high numbers of unaccompanied children who have lost one or both parents. Many are missing identity documents adding to the challenges of reuniting them with their families. Child protection must remain a priority in the emergency response.”
Psychological stress is high in such contexts. In northwest Syria, where 97% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day, women report domestic violence as a major concern.
Homelessness and onward movement can create or exacerbate protection risks. The protection and security of children are also major concerns. Safe spaces for women and girls in the earthquake-affected area can provide protection. CDP’s NGO partners have shared they are assessing the structural integrity of existing safe spaces and additional spaces may be needed relevant to the disaster’s scale.
The expected significant damage to community infrastructure such as schools, hospitals , religious facilities, and housing in Turkey and Syria will require immediate and long-term assistance.
According to a REACH rapid assessment involving 604 communities in northwest Syria, shelter is among the top priority needs. Additionally, at least 50,000 households need tents or emergency shelter and 88,000 households need mattresses, high thermal blankets and clothing, according to REACH.
According to the Syria earthquake Flash Appeal, “The earthquake has not only resulted in additional displacement due to damaged/unsafe shelter but has also diminished the prospects for safe return of IDPs originally from earthquake-affected areas. Safe shelter will be one of the main needs in the aftermath of the earthquake.”
In their March 7 northwest Syria Earthquake Situation Report, UNOCHA said, “The most urgent needs are tents and other temporary shelter units, NFI kits, basic and winter clothing, and heating fuel. Adaptation of collective shelters and minor repairs to damaged buildings are also urgent requirements.”
With 2.3 million people in Turkey living in formal and informal settlements across affected areas as of March 16, significant resources will be required to meet the shelter needs there.
In the short term, affected people will need access to safe, warm shelters. All emergency shelters should be winterized and built with disaster risk in mind.
In the longer-term, housing reconstruction will be required. The sooner the transition from emergency shelter to permanent housing solutions occurs, the better for communities and the quicker their recovery.
Although local and national governments are responsible for building codes and ensuring they are enforced, philanthropy can support efforts to reduce vulnerability in the built environment through research, advocacy and safe reconstruction.
The earthquake occurred during winter which puts the population at risk due to the damage to housing, heating and health infrastructure. In addition to shelter, the provision of warm clothes and blankets, heating equipment, clean water, and access to safe sanitation will also be required to meet immediate needs and also prevent further humanitarian impacts.
In Turkey, aid distributions by UN agencies have included winter clothes and electric heaters. The shelter and non-food item cluster reported that the most urgent needs in northwest Syria are tents and other temporary shelter units, NFI kits, basic and winter clothing and heating fuel. A REACH rapid assessment found that winterization is among the top priority needs among affected people in northwest Syria.
CDP has a Turkey & Syria Earthquake Recovery Fund that supports earthquake-affected families and communities as they work to rebuild and recover.
If you would like to make a donation to the CDP Turkey & Syria Earthquake Recovery Fund, please contact development.
(Photo: The Turkish Army supports search and rescue efforts in Turkey after the earthquake, Feb. 6, 2023. Source: Republic of Türkiye Ministry of National Defence; via Twitter)
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Philanthropic and government support
On Feb. 16, CDP hosted a webinar, “A layered disaster: Supporting long-term recovery in Turkey and Syria.” Speakers shared the latest information, including critical needs and gaps, and provide concrete takeaways for funders to effectively support relief and recovery efforts now underway.
The Council on Foundations published a list of resources to guide the philanthropic response to the Turkey and Syria Earthquakes.
Candid is tracking the global response to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, and as of March 27, there are 319 grants and pledges worth nearly $461 million, including 267 grants worth $250,686,520 and 52 pledges worth $210,111,450.
The UN and humanitarian partners have launched an earthquake Flash Appeal for Syria covering February to March 2023. The Flash Appeal requests $397.6 million to reach 4.9 million people and is complementary to the 2022-2023 Syria Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP). As of March 27, donors had funded 80% of the Flash Appeal; however, the HRP was only 5% funded.
An earthquake Flash Appeal for Turkey was announced on Feb. 17 and covers February to April 2023. Turkey’s Flash Appeal requests $1 billion to reach 5.2 million people. As of March 23, donors had funded just 18.8% of the Flash Appeal.
The UN’s Connecting Business initiative Network in Turkey is actively involved in the response. The network is mobilizing its regional federations to support efforts on the ground.
An example of corporate engagement is Amazon’s partnership with International Organization for Migration which involved Amazon planes delivering assistance for distribution.
On Feb. 9, the World Bank announced $1.78 billion in assistance to help with Turkey’s relief and recovery efforts. Immediate assistance totaling $780 million will be provided and an additional $1 billion in operations is also being prepared.
According to AFAD, as of March 1, 358,000 tents have been set up and tent cities have been established in 11 provinces. Millions of meals have also been provided by the government and humanitarian partners and more than one million people received psychosocial support.
Governments around the world were quick to respond to requests for international assistance, including Arab countries. A day after the earthquake, the United Arab Emirates announced $100 million in humanitarian assistance. Alliance reports that governments and charities across Asia have also been mobilizing to respond to the earthquakes’ devastation.
U.S. President Joe Biden “authorized an immediate U.S. response” in the aftermath of the earthquake. On Feb. 10, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) pledged $85 million for shelter, cold weather supplies, food, water and healthcare. Samantha Power, the USAID director, deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team. On Feb. 19, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $100 million in aid for Turkey and Syria.
A critical development that should help facilitate additional aid flows into Syria occurred on Feb. 9, when the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it was issuing a 180-day “general license” for earthquake relief in Syria, which is effectively a suspension of sanctions.
The European Commission said on March 20 it will support Turkey with $1.07 billion (€1 billion) to help with reconstruction. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union’s executive arm, also pledged more than $115 million (€108 million) in humanitarian aid for Syria at the opening of a donors’ conference in Brussels. On March 21, around $7.5 billion (€7 billion) were pledged by the international community at the “Together for the people of Türkiye and Syria” International Donors’ Conference.
More ways to help
CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:
- Prioritize investments in local organizations: Local humanitarian leaders and organizations play a vital role in providing immediate relief and setting the course for long-term equitable recovery in communities after a disaster or crisis. However, these leaders and organizations are mostly under-resourced and underfunded. Grant to locally-led entities as much as possible. When granting to trusted international partners with deep roots in targeted countries, more consideration should be given to those that empower local and national stakeholders.
- Take the long view: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that it will take some time for the full range of needs to emerge. Be patient in planning for disaster funding. Recovery will take a long time and while recovery efforts can begin immediately, funding will be needed throughout.
- All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or vulnerable populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding these target populations or thematic areas.
- Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities.
Striking without warning, earthquakes often are among the most devastating disasters. Caused by the movement of plates along fault lines on the earth’s surface, earthquakes often leave a monumental path of instant death and destruction.
Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
CHEs involve an acute emergency layered over ongoing instability. Multiple scenarios can cause CHEs, like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, the man-made political crisis in Venezuela, or the public health crisis in Congo.
Disasters affect millions of people and cause billions of dollars in damage globally each year. To help understand and manage disasters, practitioners, academics and government agencies frame disasters in phases.