In the face of this epic disaster, I strongly appeal to the international community to show the people of Türkiye and Syria the same kind of support and generosity with which they received, protected and assisted millions of refugees and displaced people in an enormous show of solidarity.”UN Secretary-General António Guterres
The devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake near the Türkiye-Syria border in the early hours of Monday 6 February 2023 was followed by another one nearly as strong. The earthquakes that struck Türkiye and Syria caused one of the biggest disasters to impact the region in recent times. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and many more have been injured. Thousands of buildings have collapsed, leaving countless people exposed to unforgiving winter conditions. Schools and hospitals have been destroyed.
The earthquakes struck as the humanitarian crisis in northwest Syria was already at the highest level since the conflict began, with 4.1 million people relying on humanitarian assistance to subsist.
Response on the ground
The United Nations and its agencies are deploying disaster assessment experts; coordinating search and rescue teams; providing emergency relief, food, medical supplies, thermal blankets and other life-saving items. UN convoys have crossed into northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing delivering shelter and relief supplies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent health supplies to reach 400,000 people impacted by the earthquake. The agency warns that health services need to be restored rapidly to avoid a secondary disaster that may harm many more.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is delivering food assistance and has reached almost 1.7 million people in the two countries.
With countless buildings destroyed, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) early estimates are that up to 210 million tonnes of rubble will need to be cleared in Türkiye alone. The estimated area of debris is equivalent to an area 10 km by 10 km – equivalent to 14,000 soccer fields covered in debris piled one meter high. The destruction has left 1.5 million people homeless and will require the construction of 500,000 new housing units to compensate. UNDP is supporting the Government to remove rubble first – clearing the way to then help vital deliveries of food, water and other supplies, and to begin help restore livelihoods and revive small businesses.
The UN has released $50 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to jumpstart the response.
Secretary-General António Guterres said the UN is committed to doing much more. On 14 February the UN issued a flash appeal for $397 million for the people of earthquake-ravaged Syria, to cover a period of 3 months. On 16 February the UN launched a $1 billion flash appeal to provide life-saving assistance to 5.2 million people in Türkiye through April.