A Refugee's Path through Earthquake and War

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Since the earthquake struck Syria and Türkiye in February, its impact has been profound. Tragically, over 50,000 lives have been lost, and more than 6 million people have been displaced from their homes in Syria and Türkiye. The earthquake's aftermath has left a lasting mark, reshaping the lives of countless individuals in Syria and Türkiye.

Amal* was one of the Syrian refugees who escaped the horrifying war in Syria to Türkiye just to be faced with another nightmare.

She describes the terrors she faced on an evening during the Syrian crisis, “I woke up to a heartbreaking sight. The streets that held my cherished memories, where I laughed, played, and grew up, lay before me as a haunting wasteland of rubble and despair. The city I had envisioned as the perfect place to raise my unborn child had been mercilessly torn apart, shattering my dreams into a million fragments."

Amal's home was one of the 230,000 houses and buildings in Türkiye that were destroyed by the earthquake. This left her and her family in desperate need of necessities. 

Therefore, when we met Amal during a distribution, she welcomed us with open arms and a warm embrace. She expressed a desperate longing for the affection she had lost in her family during the horrors of war. With tears running down her face, she began to share her harrowing tale, one filled with exhaustion and unimaginable challenges.

At just 28 years old, Amal faced a series of traumatic events back in Syria. Her husband, had undergone critical heart surgery while she was pregnant. Not only that, he was estranged to reasons out of his control in war-torn Syria. While he was away, the living conditions were far from ideal and this led to Increasing edema in his body. Later, his condition worsened, and three months later, Amal's husband passed away in 2018, leaving a huge negative toll on her life.

Seeking solace and safety, widowed Amal took refuge in a school with her parents. However, tragedy struck again; Amal lost her parents when they fell victim to an attack during a trip to Damascus while seeking her child's treatment. “From that moment onward, my life became an unbearable ordeal. We were subjected to harsh conditions; my mind was trapped in a suffocating existence that resembled a prison”. For seven long months, they endured the dreading conditions of the crisis from constant nearby attacks to hunger and poverty to lack of livable shelter.  The toll it took on their mental well-being was unimaginable, leaving them wavering on the edge of despair.

Determined to forge a new life for her and her son, Karam* and other children, after the war in Syria deteriorated, Amal made the difficult decision to flee to Türkiye in 2020. She wanted her son to enjoy a childhood free from the monstrosities they had witnessed. Amal expressed, "When I came to Türkiye, I had one dream in my heart; to offer Karam a life of freedom, to truly be a child. My son never went to School, never experienced the joys of playtime with toys; instead, he was exposed to guns and bombs.”

As Amal endeavoured to rebuild her shattered world in Türkiye, her hopes were disrupted once more by the devastating earthquake. Not only did their home suffer damage, but the earthquake inflicted significant emotional trauma upon Amal and her son. "Just when I thought I had escaped the ravages of war; the earthquake tore us apart. Although thankful to be alive, I mourn the loss of my family members, loved ones, neighbours, and friends".




It was during this difficult time that Amal crossed paths with the team from International Blue Crescent. At that time, they were conducting field analyses to meet basic needs in the region. They witnessed Amal’s great need for help and decided to intervene, enrolled her in in their project called GIRO 555 which is implemented through their partnership with World Vision. Amal became part of the project which consisted of provision of voucher assistance, protection and mental health support to community members affected by the earthquake in Türkiye.

Reflecting on her experience, she shared her deepest sentiments: "We are in great need of everything here, at this very moment. A knock on our door, a caring inquiry about our needs, or even a simple smile and greeting. Each time you visited our home and left behind a support package, I slept peacefully that night. Words fail to express the immense happiness it brought me. I had reached a point where even thinking about our basic necessities such as food and clothing became overwhelming. I couldn't even afford a bar of soap for my children to wash their hands. And after the earthquake, our problems multiplied, leaving me feeling utterly alone and vulnerable in this world”.

The psychosocial support sessions offered Amal new light, a connection to other women who shared her pain and struggles. "In those safe spaces, I discovered that I was not alone in my struggling. I found people who listened intently, dedicating hours to seeking solutions for my profound wounds. I realized that my feelings of despair were valid responses to the immense challenges I had endured." Slowly, a glimmer of hope emerged within her, whispering of brighter days to come.

Amal gave this last message to Worlds Vision’s Partners, International Blue Crescent:

“Thank you from the depths of my heart for the unwavering continuous support you have offered us and the helping hand you have extended through the GIRO555 programme. Your kindness and compassion have made an immersive difference in our lives."

Through the GIRO555 project, implemented since April 2023, over 43,000 vulnerable individuals, including girls, boys, women, and men, in different provinces in earthquake-stricken Türkiye will benefit.

*Names are changed to protect identity.