In early February 2023, devastating earthquakes hit south central Türkiye and northern Syria, causing a widespread humanitarian crisis throughout the region. Read here about the ongoing situation there, and what CAF America’s local grantees are doing to help.
What is the current state of damage and impact caused by the earthquakes?
In Türkiye, the earthquake heavily affected eleven provinces; approximately 14 million people resided within the region, including two million Syrian refugees. As of April 5 (the last time the Turkish government issued a report), over 50,000 people lost their lives as a result of the earthquakes, and 107,000 were injured.
Currently, 2.37 million people are living in temporary settlements, mostly tents; a large portion of this population will likely continue to live in tents throughout the hot summer months, often without consistent access to running water or sanitary facilities. All basic needs aid remains in high demand—from shelter to food assistance to medical supplies and hygiene kits.
In Syria, approximately 8.8 million people were directly affected by the earthquakes. Much of this population was already extremely vulnerable after enduring twelve years of civil war and unrest. In addition, the affected area in Syria was home to almost three million internally displaced people from within the country who were already in great need before the earthquakes struck.
Since the earthquake on February 6, there have been over 11,000 aftershocks that have caused additional damage throughout the region. And in mid-March, torrential rains caused deadly flooding in some of the same areas affected by the earthquakes. Each subsequent event has further intensified the crisis situation that displaced people are experiencing, and complicated the humanitarian response.
Recovery efforts right now are focused on the most urgent needs of communities—emergency shelter, access to clean water, food, and healthcare.
What has CAF America done to help?
CAF America, powered by the generosity of our donors, has granted $1.1 million to eligible organizations helping people affected by the earthquakes. Of that amount, over $750,000 has been granted to in-country organizations that are providing support to their local communities. We believe that supporting local organizations, who understand their communities (and therefore know their most pressing needs and other crucial contextual information), are often the best positioned to provide effective solutions and long-lasting aid. These are the organizations that will remain long after INGOs wrap up their operations and depart.
What do we know about the work local organizations are doing?
Four of our grantee partners have shared updates with us about the impact of their work—and what they see as the most pressing needs at the moment.
Toplum Gӧnüllüleri (TOG) is a community foundation that helps facilitate volunteerism, particularly among young people, by focusing on identifying local problems and building solutions in partnership with community residents and volunteers. Immediately after the earthquakes hit, TOG joined the emergency relief efforts and put out a call for volunteers. They mobilized more than 3,000 volunteers to the region, where they dispatched aid and ensured people received food, shelter, hygiene products and services, medical care, and other basic necessities.
In addition, TOG opened up two tents in the Pazarcık and Elbistan districts in order to support affected children from the region. Right now, TOG’s volunteers are conducting activities in these safe spaces with children such as playing games, coloring, and studying. TOG has also started working on building centers for youth and children in eleven cities that will function as safe spaces to support well-being, teach coping skills, process trauma, and implement healthy routines.
Türk Kızılay (Red Crescent Turkey) is the largest humanitarian foundation in Türkiye that provides all aspects of disaster response aid, healthcare, immigration and refugee services, and more. They have been involved in response efforts since the day of the earthquakes, and have helped hundreds of thousands of people throughout the past three months. Their work covers many areas, from shelter and food assistance to mental health and support for vulnerable populations.
Türk Kızılay led humanitarian efforts in the space of food assistance, and provide almost four million hot meals on a daily basis. They operate from over a thousand distribution points and have delivered over 15 million food parcels in addition to the daily hot meals and supplemental nutrition they provide.
They also instituted a new project, Social Markets, which are marketplaces filled with donated items (food, hygiene products, clothing, etc.) where people can shop free of charge, in a way that lets them select the items they need most and regain a sense of independence over a portion of their lives. Through this project (currently twelve markets in six cities), over 2.5 million relief items have been distributed to almost 300,000 people.
In-kind distributions are still the predominant relief response in humanitarian emergencies and transitional settings, but in recent years, it has become increasingly clear that cash-based interventions play a prominent role in assisting people in and after emergencies. Türk Kızılay utilized an already existing cash program and put it into action to provide cash and vouchers to people in need. Over 42,000 cards, with a total of 63 million Turkish lira loaded onto them, have been distributed.
Temel Ihtiyac Dernegi
Temel Ihtiyac Dernegi (TIDER—Basic Needs Association) is a non profit organization that brings a broad perspective to food-banking by providing concrete solutions that fight against poverty and waste with a holistic model. Since the earthquake, they have been distributing food and clean water in their community, as well as hygiene products and cleaning materials. They are currently working to establish new food banks, as many food banks in their network were irreparably destroyed by the earthquakes.
HAYTAP Turkish Animal Rights Federation
HAYTAP is an animal welfare organization that has experience working in earthquake zones and areas hit by wildfires. They set up the animal hospital on the first day of the disaster and took charge of coordinating aid efforts and volunteers.
The rescue team worked in the cities of Hatay-Antakya, Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, and Osmaniye to find and save animals trapped in rubble and collapsed buildings. HAYTAP rescued and treated nearly 1,800 animals in the weeks following the earthquakes, and provided free food, veterinary care, and safe shelters to animals unable to be reconnected with their families. This was one of their biggest operations to date—one that made a real difference to the lives of animals affected by the earthquakes.
What can I do to help?
- Support recovery work happening now. Our grantee partners have shared that basic needs continue to be of utmost importance as response work moves into its fourth month. There are still millions of displaced and unsheltered families that need support from the international community.
- Sustain long-term recovery. Consider supporting a local organization that will remain in the community for the long term—recovering from a disaster isn’t solely about addressing immediate needs. Those needs will only subside when infrastructure is rebuilt and people have safe, permanent places to live, when they have a sustainable source of income and can afford necessities, and when children can go back to school and focus on learning rather than surviving.
- Invest in community resilience. The region where the February earthquakes took place is along a fault line, and therefore at higher risk for earthquakes than other places. You can support organizations that focus on infrastructure improvements, community preparedness, poverty alleviation, and any number of programs that help a community become more resilient and able to respond when disaster happens in the future.