On February 6, 2023, magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes struck southeast Türkiye and northwest of Syria, between 4:17 and 4:30 a.m. local time. The initial earthquake, which was centred near Gaziantep in south central Türkiye was the deadliest earthquake to hit the region in twenty years. Since then, over 22 thousand aftershocks have happened and continue happening, including smaller earthquakes that have caused again casualties and destruction.
As of the 24th of March, more than 56,000 people have died, and millions have been affected following the earthquakes in both countries.
Impact on Syria
There was major destruction in large buildings in urban centres. In Northwest Syria, the number of destroyed buildings is 1,764 and the number of partially destroyed buildings is 5,771. South Afrin (Jindires), Aleppo Governorate, is the most affected area. Al Atrib, Afrin, (North Aleppo); Salqin, Harem, Bsenia (Idlib) have seen more than hundred casualties. 55 medical facilities have been damaged and several completely destroyed, hindering their capacity to respond.
Two MSF-supported maternity centres were evacuated, due to the risk of the buildings collapsing. Our medical staff and the staff of other facilities have worked hard to treat patients since the first earthquake. The disaster compounded an already desperate humanitarian situation. The 180,000 people that have been displaced by the earthquakes adds to the 2.8 million already living in difficult and precarious circumstances after being repeatedly displaced during 12 years of war.
The displaced are left with no or little shelter, food, water or any form of access to necessities of livelihood. According to the Turkish government, some 60,000 Syrians have returned to Syria in the aftermath of the earthquake. In March 2023, heavy rain in northwest Syria, have damage tents in 21 IDPs camps in Al-Dana in Idlib governorate. 514 tents have been fully destroyed.
The flow of humanitarian aid into northwest Syria
The humanitarian aid coming into northwest Syria has been extremely limited and too slow especially during the first two weeks after the earthquakes. There has been strictly no Search and Rescue materials or teams entering NWS to support the essential first day’s search for survival not in Idlib, nor in North Aleppo that is controlled and administrated by Türkiye.
Bab Al-Hawa was the main UN supported humanitarian crossing between Türkiye and northwest Syria, from which essential life-saving medical supplies can enter northwest Syria. On February 13, two additional humanitarian crossing points of Bab Al-Salam and Al-Ra’ee from Türkiye to northwest Syria were announced open for an initial period of three months with the aim to ensure a timely and effective delivery of the humanitarian aid.
As of 31 March, more than 1200 trucks loaded with aid provided by seven UN agencies have so far crossed to northwest Syria through Bab Al-Hawa, Bab Al-Salama and Al-Ra’ee.
In addition to these 3 crossing points, there are other commercial crossing points that are not related to UN border crossing resolution access points. They are open for trade and local NGOs supply from Turkey to Northwest Syria (Al Hammam and Jarablus). Convoys with non-medical supplies, as well as authorized staff, are able to use these crossing points, through local partners.
A total of 53 MSF trucks crossed into northwest Syria since the earthquakes, with the collaboration of local partners. International aid must be urgently scaled up to preserve the lives and dignity of people living in affected areas and match the scale of the humanitarian crisis.
Impact on Türkiye
According to the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD), as of 24 of March, more than 50,000 people have died following the earthquakes in Türkiye. According to the same source, there have been 22,500 aftershocks since the February 6 earthquakes, 47 of them higher than magnitude 5 on the Ritcher scale. As of the 3rd of April, the disaster area has expanded.
. According to the Turkish Ministry of Interior, as of April 3rd, there are over 650 thousand tents and over 50 thousand containers sheltering people. The official state of emergency has been declared until May 2023.
Across the most affected cities, thousands of buildings have been damaged: 56,426 buildings are either collapsed or urgently need to be demolished, 206,452 buildings have suffered severe damage, 48,984 buildings have moderate damage, and 516,352 buildings have minor damage, according to the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. Moreover, many of the standing buildings have cracks and other issues so the authorities are inspecting them: 1.25 million have been inspected, according to the authorities. People are very afraid of going back to their homes because there are still aftershocks daily. Also, economic activities (banks, shops, etc) and some basic services have been disrupted, converting many cities into ghost towns.
MSF response in Syria & Türkiye
MSF response to the earthquakes in Syria (as of 27 March 2023)
MSF has been present in northwest and northeast Syria for many years, making a swift response possible in the most affected areas, mainly in NWS, while NES was much less affected. MSF teams are adapting their response in Syria to offer immediate relief and medical support. The pillars of the first few days of the response are supporting medical facilities to treat patients with material and HR support, facilitating transport of patients by supporting ambulances, and providing immediate relief items to people affected.
Today, MSF has scaled its efforts deploying mobile clinics, distributing relief items, implementing water and sanitation and logistics activities, and offering psychological first aid and mental health support. In addition, MSF will support the rehabilitation of some of the affected health facilities.
MSF supported activities in response to the earthquakes in Türkiye (as of 24 March 2023)
MSF is supporting various local NGOs in Türkiye to provide humanitarian relief to people affected by the earthquakes, including psychosocial interventions, water and sanitation improvements and relief items distributions and donations, as the humanitarian emergency evolves.
Psychosocial activities for the affected population and volunteers include individual and group sessions, as well as donating pedagogical material for psycho-social workshops. In places like Adıyaman and Malatya, we are supporting local organisations in setting up clean, safe and warm spaces where they can find psychosocial support, showers and toilets, laundry machinery, charging docs, amongst other services.
MSF has also supported and continues to support with donation and distribution of medical materials, food, water and logistical supplies, as well as tens of thousands of relief items, such as hygiene kits blankets, stoves and underwear. We also address the immense needs in water and sanitation with the constructions of showers and toilets and setting up and refilling water tanks in makeshift camps.