Tuesday 6th February marks one year since a series of earthquakes struck southern Turkey and northwest Syria. An initial 7.8-magnitude quake hit southern Turkey and northern Syria on 6 February 2023, with more than 50,000 people killed in total and hundreds of thousands buildings damaged.
Thanks to the generosity of supporters to the DEC Turkey-Syria Earthquake Appeal, CARE has been able to help over 2 million people affected by the devastating earthquakes.
Your donations have enabled local responders to make a huge difference to so many people who lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones and helped them start to recover. Thank you.
Rebuilding lives in Turkey
In Turkey, CARE has provided communities with water, hygiene and sanitation services, food, cash for food, and protection services, including psychological first aid. CARE also runs a rehabilitation project with funding from the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) for vulnerable households whose residences have been damaged because of the earthquakes.
Image: Bulent in front of a tent his garden, his home for many months. CARE/Tarek Satea
Bulent, 48 years old, used to work as a maths teacher. Today, he lives in a room of about 20 square metres with his sister and their parents, aged 71 and 73 years old. Their house collapsed in the terrifying earthquake.
“After the earthquakes, all four of us had to stay in a tent for about eight months. We did not even have a shower for eight months. It was very difficult and still is.”
The room they use now as a shelter used to be an open space, under the awning of the kitchen room. Using his savings and with some support from his neighbours, Bulent built three walls around the awning and turned it into a decent room. Their old kitchen is severely damaged and not stable enough. CARE rehabilitated the roof of the newly built room because it was leaking and helped reconstruct the bathroom.
The new bathroom provided by CARE made a big difference in our life. I feel more human now."
"Before, I did not feel comfortable going out of the house in the state I was. Now, I can face the world with dignity,” says Bulent.
CARE teams also provided Bulent and his family cash for winterization items, hygiene kits and protection services to ensure they will be referred to other services as needed.
“It seems like a luxury to be able to think about the future. People outside Hatay tend to forget, but I won't. I try to take one day at a time and stay strong," says Bulent.
It's crucial that people are aware of what we're going through because more support is needed.”
Concerns as winter sets in
However, shortfalls in aid funding mean these resilient communities are being tested beyond their limits. Thousands of families continue to face recovery challenges amidst temperatures hovering close to or below 0°C, while the humanitarian response remains underfunded.
Huriye Gençtürk, Liaison Officer, CARE Türkiye, said: "One year after the devastating earthquakes in southeastern Turkiye, there are still hundreds of thousands of Turkish and Syrian communities living in precarious conditions, while the winter is only expected to get worse."
In Hatay, the hardest hit region in Turkey, there is a lack of water and inadequate sanitation facilities posing substantial health risks, especially for the vulnerable such as young children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Northern Syria: A crisis upon a crisis
Across the border in northwest Syria, communities are experiencing cuts in aid funding and a renewed escalation of violence. This has further deepened the suffering of the over 4 million people living in dire conditions in winter. CARE has supported over 40,000 households in northwest Syria with food and cash vouchers.
In 2023, following the earthquakes, communities witnessed ongoing food shortages and a continued inflation in food prices, making four out of five Syrians in the northwest region food insecure. It was also the most significant escalation of hostilities in the last four years. Due to the shortage of funding, humanitarian actors, including CARE, are asked to prioritise one vulnerable life over another this winter.
Image: Yasser looks out over his home town. CARE/IYD
Yasser, a humanitarian worker from northwest Syria, lost his three children and pregnant wife in the earthquake. Today he is jobless, because of the scaling down of activities that many local NGOs are currently experiencing due to the significant decrease of funding for humanitarian programmes in Syria.
He says: "Governments and decision-makers should take measures for safety, security and living conditions that will allow all those displaced to return and live with dignity. Otherwise, Syrians will never be able to restore all of what is lost to the war and the earthquake.”
Losing hope is not an option
Image: Gönül's cat Pars holds a special place in her heart. CARE/Tarek Satea
Gönül, a single mother of two, lives near Antakya in Turkey. CARE supports Gönül and her family with cash vouchers. With the vouchers, Gönül can buy detergent and disinfectants, laundry washing powder, and other hygiene necessities, as well as food such as eggs, cheese, bread, and vegetables. She says:
The people of Samandağ have been through a lot. But I still believe we will recover."
"Losing hope is not an option. We hope that more aid will come. I simply want one day to wake up at 6 a.m. again and have my coffee on the balcony.”