Impact Updates: One Year After the Türkiye and Syria Earthquakes

In early February 2023, devastating earthquakes of 7.8 and 7.6 magnitudes hit south-central Türkiye and northern Syria, causing a widespread humanitarian crisis throughout the region. The earthquakes killed more than 55,000 people in Türkiye and 5,800 in Syria. For the past year, CAF America’s local grantee partners have worked around the clock to support people impacted by the crisis.

As we pass the one-year anniversary of the earthquakes, we’re pausing to reflect on the impact our donors have had on humanitarian relief and the individual lives of people affected by the disaster.

Since the earthquakes occurred, CAF America has facilitated over $4,028,000 in donor-advised and restricted grants to Türkiye-based organizations. Our donors have funded over 158 grants to 23 charities based in Türkiye for the relief of people residing in the affected areas of both Türkiye and Syria. An additional $103,000 of these grants were specifically earmarked for people affected in Syria, with donations made to organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce Türkiye, American National Red Cross, World Central Kitchen, and Associazione Pro Terra Sancta.

Reviewing CAF America’s grants data, we’ve seen a few key trends develop over the past year:

  • Strong support for localized aid in Türkiye: Instead of donating to mass global organizations, donors mainly opted to support 23 local organizations directly on the ground where the disasters hit. Supporting the localization of aid and smaller charities on the ground leverages local knowledge and expertise, fosters sustainable development, and enhances efficiency and effectiveness. Localized aid also builds community trust and engagement while promoting resilience and innovation. These advantages collectively contribute to more impactful and meaningful aid delivery.
  • Backing of NGOs with multi-faceted missions: The majority of funding went to organizations with a wider scope of focus compared to niche organizations focusing on one type of aid. Many of our grantees are multifaceted, providing a variety of services such as disaster relief, medical treatment, basic needs (food, water, and shelter), and cash-based assistance. This supports the localization trend above, allowing organizations to allocate resources to the areas that need it most.

We checked in with four of our grantee partners to share their stories and provide updates from the past year. While serious challenges remain, we’re inspired by their stories and the resilience of their teams as they continue to serve their communities.

Charity Spotlight 1: Ahbap Association

About the Organization

Ahbap Association is a Turkish non-governmental organization committed to social responsibility. The term “Ahbap,” meaning “buddy” in Turkish, reflects the foundation’s ethos of solidarity and community support. Through various charitable activities, Ahbap addresses societal challenges by initiating projects that provide essential aid, including food, clothing, and educational assistance. The organization was founded in 2017 by musician Haluk Levent (selected as the most trusted person in Türkiye for many years).

Spring 2024 Update

Ahbap Association was on the ground from the beginning of the earthquake, working tirelessly to meet the most urgent needs, including tents and containers in the affected areas through the warehouses we set up.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, Ahbap supported both immediate and long-term recovery efforts. They supported regional needs in food, accommodation, and hygiene; re-equipped eleven womens’ cooperatives, and supplied materials to 50 auto shop shops. They also built 16 prefabricated schools that let students quickly and safely resume their education without waiting for a permanent structure to be rebuilt.

Looking at the medium-term recovery of the area, Ahbap embarked on projects that would provide much-needed infrastructure, bringing back economic opportunity and improving education. They constructed over 400 light steel houses for families with disabilities to begin using immediately.

Now, one year later, Ahbap Association continues to support those impacted by the earthquake through ongoing projects; currently they are building more houses for families in need and bringing libraries, music, and technology into schools.

Charity Spotlight 2: Anadolu Meralari

About the Organization

Anadolu Meralari (AM) is a nonprofit promoting regenerative agriculture in Türkiye. It creates models for alternative markets and supply chains, creating a bridge between economy and ecology by promoting practices that enrich the soil and add higher nutritional and monetary value to the end product. AM localizes proven regenerative farming techniques, recruiting teams of local farmers and young individuals to make rural communities attractive and viable living environments thus reshaping rural life and unleashing potential in Türkiye.

Spring 2024 Update

Grants from CAF America played a crucial role in supporting Anadolu Meraları (AM) as they assisted local communities in their recovery efforts. AM focused on aiding local farmers who were significantly impacted by the disaster by helping them implement regenerative agricultural practices. This initiative aimed to boost food production and enhance food security in the earthquake-affected areas. AM helped farmers grow this food together by setting up a local cooperative that uses greenhouse cultivation and local farmland.

AM also established a Community Farming Resource Hub that directly supports 40 farmers directly through training sessions, workshops, and other community building activities. The hub now promotes regenerative agricultural practices throughout the region.

In addition, funds have supported AM in building a resilient agricultural community through an intermediary system called Samandağ Agricultural Development Cooperative. This system prepares farmers for corporate engagement and market demand. The project fosters a buyer community with fair procurement practices, dialogue facilitation, and purchasing guidelines. The goal is to create a resilient community embracing regenerative agriculture, benefiting both farmers and corporations with enhanced supply chain plans for sustainability.

The project established a resource center for farmers, organized community gatherings, arranged skill-sharing sessions, and set up mentorship programs. These efforts were vital in helping the earthquake-stricken communities rebuild their livelihoods in the long term and ensure a more secure food supply for the future.

“With the invaluable support of CAF America, we have been able to make meaningful strides in our mission. Their partnership has enabled us to provide direct assistance to over a hundred farmers through funding initiatives and has facilitated training sessions and workshops, benefitting thousands more in our efforts to promote sustainable agriculture and agroecology. Together, we are not only assisting farmers in cultivating crops; we are also nurturing communities and fostering a more resilient future for all.”

Anadolu Meralari Executive Team

Charity Spotlight 3: AKUT Search and Rescue Association

About the Organization

AKUT is a volunteer-based, non-governmental organization that searches for, assists, and rescues all who require aid within its authority and means, in mountain or other nature-related accidents, natural disasters, and all other emergency conditions. AKUT rescues people through trained, disciplined, and high-standard personnel and equipment while sharing non-partisan rescue knowledge with society. Founded in 1994, AKUT has grown into one of the premier search and rescue organizations in Türkiye.

Spring 2024 Update
Over the past year, CAF America donations supported the rescue of hundreds of victims of the earthquakes. AKUT was in the affected disaster zone from day one, putting 777 volunteers and search dogs on the ground. Within the first 48 hours, they rescued 197 people from under collapsed structures and were determined to continue their mission until they knew they had done everything in their power to help rescue lives.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, AKUT assisted with water rescues, urban search & rescues, and victim extrication from vehicle accidents. One year after the earthquake, they continue to provide rescue training to volunteers and build a strong reserve of equipment that allow them to quickly respond in case of a similar disaster down the road. Current donations to AKUT help purchase this disaster rescue equipment, increasing their capability to respond to future emergencies. This equipment includes rafting boats, spreaders, cutters (commonly known as hydraulic rescue tools), and framing nailers, used in search and rescue operations. Through this and continued training, AKUT is building long-term community resilience in Türkiye in case of future earthquakes and other natural disasters that may happen.

“The use of rafting boats, spreaders and cutters, and framing nailers in search and rescue operations enhances our capabilities as rescue teams, enabling us to respond more effectively to a wide range of emergency situations and increasing the chances of successful outcomes for victims.”

Esra Üstünkaya, Vice-Chairwoman, AKUT Search and Rescue Association​

Charity Spotlight 4: HAYTAP – Turkish Animal Rights Federation

About the Organization

HAYTAP is an animal rights federation based in Türkiye. The nonprofit consists of a unified collective of all Turkish animal rights associations and organizations under one name. HAYTAP completes many projects across the country, all with the mission of helping homeless animals.

Spring 2024 Update

Amid the immense human suffering caused by the earthquakes, animals were also hugely affected by the disaster, with thousands of animals trapped in crumbling buildings.

HAYTAP, an animal welfare organization experienced working in earthquake zones and areas hit by wildfires, took charge of coordinating aid efforts and volunteers, who come from across Türkiye and abroad. It set up the animal hospital on the first day of the disaster.

CAF America funds supported animal food, medical supplies, transportation, and provisions for workers trying to help the animals. In a tent in a park less than a mile from Antakya’s devastated old city, Zinnet Patan, a 49-year-old vet normally living in Istanbul, treated close to 100 animals per day in the days following the earthquakes. She administered vaccinations, stitched wounds, and helped animals give birth and care for their sickly young. The owners of many of the animals being treated died in the earthquake or lost everything and could no longer care for them. Animals can be permanently housed at a farm run by HAYTAP in Bursa, or they can stay there until they are rehomed.

Our donors’ generous donations enabled HAYTAP volunteers to treat animals rescued from the rubble in three earthquake-hit cities in southern Türkiye: Kahramanmaraş, Malatya, and Osmaniye. Many injured farm animals rescued from the rubble were treated and rehomed in HAYTAP’s sanctuaries, ensuring they won’t be sold again. Over the past year, CAF America has provided funds for spaying programs to control stray animal populations, food support, and facilitating the treatment of injured animals. Long-term recovery work includes building a mobile surgery room for future disasters and supporting shelters that still have an overflow of animals. Additional funding is currently being used to feed these animals and advocate for animal welfare in overlooked areas, especially in times of catastrophe. HAPYTAP is currently working to build a strong reserve of veterinarians, medical equipment, and long-term housing for animals affected by disasters to prepare for potential future earthquakes.

CAF America’s Türkiye & Syria Earthquake Relief Fund

CAF America is continuing to collect general grants to help Türkiye & Syria rebuilding efforts. Grants from this campaign will be made at CAF America’s discretion, to charities working on relief and response associated with the February 6, 2023 Earthquake affecting people in Türkiye and Syria.

Learn more about the relief fund here.

Sign up for additional disaster updates and communications here.

OFAC Global Humanitarian Licenses Resources

In September 2023, OFAC published detailed, updated guidance on humanitarian assistance to Syria. Read our September update on giving to Syria here.

Additional resources include:

PODCAST: New OFAC General Licenses for Humanitarian Relief: What Grantmakers Need to Know

NEWS ALERT: CAF America Welcomes New OFAC General Licenses for Humanitarian Aid

U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT: Addition of General Licenses for the Official Business of the United States Government and Certain International Organizations and Entities and Updates to the 50 Percent Rule Interpretive in OFAC Sanctions Regulations

U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT: Publication of Humanitarian-related Regulatory Amendments and Associated Frequently Asked Questions

About the Author

  • Margot Cunningham

    Margot Cunningham serves as CAF America’s Officer of Marketing and Communications. Her responsibilities include planning, creating, and implementing marketing and communications strategies, with a focus on building awareness of our mission and engaging prospects and donors with long-form content and event opportunities.

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