A series of strong earthquakes struck southeastern Türkiye and northwest Syria on February 6, 2023, toppling buildings and killing more than 40,000 people. Tens of thousands more are injured or missing and many more are now homeless during the coldest month of the year.
Search and rescue efforts are underway for people reportedly trapped under flattened buildings. Damage was widespread and catastrophic. Many in this region were already dealing with the ongoing impacts of conflict in Syria and/or the resulting refugee crisis.
Where was the earthquake?
The earthquake’s epicenter was near Gaziantep, where millions of Syrian refugees live, just outside the regional capital. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, some 3.5 million Syrians, according to the UNHCR, which runs one of its most extensive operations from Gaziantep.
How is World Vision responding to the needs of those impacted by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria?
Our teams, which were already present in the region, are working rapidly to assess impacts to already-displaced children and communities and will respond accordingly, in coordination with other humanitarian organisations.
Our priorities will include helping support affected people with access to warm and safe shelters, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), health care, and protection. Our immediate response areas will cover Azaz, Afrin, Idleb and Aleppo in Syria and Kilis, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa in Türkiye.
Currently, we distributing fuel and heat to shelters as cold and sub-zero temperatures are of immediate concern. Initial assessments from our partners showed a critical need for fuel to restore heating and electricity to medical facilities and emergency shelters.
“In the middle of a harsh winter, already incredibly vulnerable children and families have now been shaken to their core by this devastating earthquake, which is likely to affect thousands in northern Syria and southern Türkiye,” said Johan Mooij, Response Director for World Vision’s Syria Crisis Response in Amman, Jordan. “We will do everything we can to help those who were affected.”
World Vision has been working in the Middle East region for nearly 40 years. We’re dedicated to improving the lives of children, families, and the communities where they live through long-term sustainable development as well as responding to disasters — both natural and man-made.
We have been supporting families impacted by the conflict since 2011 through aid to children and families in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey, all of which have suffered from the conflict and resulting humanitarian crisis. Since the Syrian refugee crisis began, we’ve helped more than 7.5 million children and their families in the region.
Syria & Türkiye Earthquake Rapid Assessment Report
This rapid assessment was conducted between Feb. 8 and 9, 2023 by the World Vision Syria Response team.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I help?
You can help those impacted by this conflict by:
Prayer: Pray for strength and endurance for those impacted by this crisis, especially those who lost loved ones. Pray for strength, provision and wisdom for all involved in responding to the tragedy.
Give Support our response financially. You can give through the local World Vision office. If you live outside the countries listed, please select "other" your donations will be processed by our team in the UK and sent to help those in need.
What is World Vision doing to respond to the needs of those impacted by the earthquake?
As soon as the earthquake hit, we began conducting an assessment and scaling up our response, which we plan to involve distributing emergency relief items such as food, water, shelter and winterisation items, as well as medical supplies to several health facilities that are struggling to respond to growing needs, whilst ensuring our staff and their families' wellbeing.
We began distributing fuel and heat to shelters of those impacted and displaced by the earthquake on the first day of the response.
What is the situation like now in earthquake-affected areas?
Hundreds of thousands of people are impacted on both sides of the border, in Türkiye and Syria, where thousands of buildings have been destroyed or deemed unsafe to seek shelter in. Many have lost family members and friends and are still trying to cope with this very difficult situation.
Many families and their children are stranded in the streets, fields, and displacement camps in freezing temperatures. This makes them more vulnerable to diseases, hypothermia and countless other risks. This also means that children are at greater risk of being separated from loved ones and other serious protection risks such as exploitation and abuse.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently estimated that about 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are likely to be affected by this earthquake.
How does WV work in Türkiye and Syria?
World Vison has 48 staff in Syria in two offices in the Northwest and more than 200 volunteers. In Türkiye, World Vision has 12 staff based in-country. We have also been working with 16+ local partners in Türkiye and Syria for years.
Our immediate areas of response will be focused in Kilis, Gaziantep and Sanliurfa in Türkiye, as well as Aleppo, Azaz, Afrin and Idleb, in Syria.
How does this situation impact children?
Children are particularly impacted by events such as this one as they become more vulnerable to experiencing traumatic events, or being exposed to serious protection risks such as family separation. This dire situation also makes them more susceptible to exploitation and abuse.
It is crucial that vulnerable children and their families are able to return to their homes and schools as soon as possible in order to ensure that they are not exposed to freezing temperatures, the spread of disease, and various protection risks - such as family separation, child labour or early child marriage and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
What work was World Vision doing before the earthquake?
In 2022, World Vision Syria Response (WVSR) reached 680,651 unique beneficiaries in Syria with humanitarian assistance. Assistance provided was in the areas of health, protection, education, nutrition, water access, sanitation, and hygiene.
In addition, WVSR supported the operation of essential disease monitoring services, which indirectly benefitted 4.7 million people in the areas covered by the monitoring.
WVSR is currently preparing to scale up its activities to reach people in need of immediate assistance following the earthquakes of February 6.
WVSR’s presence in Türkiye is mainly focused on overseeing projects inside Syria; however, WVSR has an ongoing project in the Sanliurfa area (an area affected by the February 6 earthquakes), which is supporting the socioeconomic empowerment, protection, and psychological wellbeing of 800 (mostly Syrian) migrants and refugees living in this region of Türkiye.
The earthquakes of February 6 have drastically increased the number of people requiring assistance in both Syria and Türkiye, and WVSR is already working on the ground directly and with partners to scale up its response.
What are the most pressing needs?
Primary assessment information indicates that there are a wide range of needs from fuel to medical facilities and collective emergency shelters for heating purposes and electricity along with key non-food items and food (i.e., tents, blankets, mattresses, tarpaulins, heaters and ready-to-eat food). With hospitals already stretched to capacity in Syria prior to this earthquake, and with thousands of deaths and potentially hundreds of thousands injured – there are urgent healthcare needs.
Due to so many buildings, sometimes entire villages, being destroyed many people have been displaced and are in desperate need of shelter. Some are sleeping outside in freezing conditions as they are unable to find buildings not at risk of collapse.
Learn more about our ongoing support for children and their families impacted by the conflict in Syria