Syria and Türkiye. On 6 February 2023, a series of major earthquakes rocked Syria and Türkiye. Nearly 5,900 people died and over 12,800 were injured.
People already facing dire conditions after years of war lost what little they had – again. Families lost loved ones, at a time when a worsening economic situation already meant many could not meet their basic needs.
In the immediate aftermath of the quake, OCHA swiftly allocated money from the pooled funds – the Central Emergency Response Fund, the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund, and the Syria Humanitarian Fund – to kick start immediate humanitarian response and continue to help people in the following months.
In Syria, the earthquakes uprooted hundreds of thousands of families, who had already lived through twelve years of conflict. Syrian refugees and Turkish host community members were also affected. Rojin, a Syrian woman displaced in Türkiye, explained, “We stayed outside in the park for four days. We couldn’t take anything with us, nothing for the children, no shoes. The situation was very difficult.”
Clearing debris, providing immediate help
OCHA’s pooled funds enabled partners to provide immediate help. The Syria Cross- border Humanitarian Fund helped UNDP to clear debris – essential work that also created temporary jobs for affected people and increased humanitarian access by clearing roads for transport.
Already existing projects for food and education were re-purposed to provide emergency food assistance and education. In Idleb, local organizations distributed bread to affected households and provided water testing and water trucking to ensure safe water was available.
Helping families access safe water and health care
Mounfed recalled the night of the quake. She lives with her three children. “The night of the earthquake, my family and I were asleep. Fear, fear, fear – I get goosebumps just thinking about it,” she says. “I woke up to the building shaking and the children calling out for me.”
Her home was destroyed, and in the following weeks she stayed in a shelter inside a school in Aleppo, sharing a room with another family.
Thousands of people like Mounfed sought shelter in collective centres in schools and other locations in Aleppo – in the middle of winter. Through funding from the Syria Humanitarian Fund (SHF), Medair supplied about 50,000L of water to people in the affected areas in Aleppo including Mounfed and her family.
Community Iftars provide respite
The earthquake came just before the month of Ramadan, observed by many affected people. Alongside other psychosocial support activities, CERF funding contributed to thirty-five community Iftars, implemented by partner IOM and the Hatay Metropolitan Municipality in Türkiye.
These brought together 7,000 people, including Syrian refugees and affected host community members. For many, the Iftars offered a social occasion that provided a bit of normalcy for themselves and their children.
“We feel better being here together with other people. It’s also about changing the scene and environment as we are in a tent all the time. We can socialize here,” said Zehra, a mother originally from Syria.
Rebuilding damaged homes
Mohamed is a returnee to Dorien, a rural community in Syria. His house was looted during the war, and then rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake.
Here and in other rural communities, the Syria Humanitarian Fund worked with Syrian NGO GOPA to repair damaged homes.
The GOPA project repaired his house so that his family could live there again. “Why did I return? It’s where I was born and lived my entire life…it is my home,” he explains.
Supporting rural livelihoods and food security
Meanwhile, in Salqoin, Idleb governorate, the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund supported Qatar Red Crescent Society work to lay critical irrigation pipelines and rehabilitate damaged wells.
The project created jobs and built the groundwork for sustainable agriculture in vulnerable villages, supporting food security into the future.
Needs continue this winter
Of the people displaced by the earthquake as well as by other crises, some 800,000 are still living in tents, many of them for years. During the winter, these tents are people’s only shelter from the snow, freezing rain, and high winds.
As part of the Winter Response, the Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund allocated $9.5 million specifically for winterization activities: the funding helps move people out of tents and into dignified, durable shelters.
By mid-December 2023, over 28,500 families – or 35 per cent of the target of 81,520 – have so far been supported into dignified shelter, and another 7,000 families are also being helped. But there’s not enough funding to move all the families who need to move
“For the cost of two tents – which have to be replaced every six months – we’d like to provide a dignified shelter, providing more privacy, more durability and lasting much longer,” said David Carden, UN Deputy Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis (DRHC), in a UN interagency visit to Idleb last November.
For more information, see the Syria 2024 Humanitarian Response Plan, visit the Syria Humanitarian Fund and Syria Cross-border Humanitarian Fund websites, and find real-time contribution and allocation data on the POOLED FUNDS DATA HUB.