A playground in Antakya, Hatay Province, South Türkiye, that was damaged by the February 2023 earthquakes.
One Month After Earthquakes, Children in Türkiye and Syria are in Survival Mode
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (March 6, 2023)—One month after the devastating earthquakes that killed more than 50,000 people and injured more than 100,000 across Syria and Türkiye, thousands of families are still living in temporary shelters and struggling to access food and other essential goods.
The earthquakes that struck the region on February 6 and February 20 impacted 24.4 million people, including 6.2 million children, and caused further displacement, with a series of aftershocks further exacerbating the needs of affected communities.
Amani,* 26, and her family of four lost their home in the Aleppo regional governorate in Syria. Amani used her body to shield her 12-year-old son Ahmad.* She was trapped with her husband and two children under rubble for four hours until they were rescued. Amani* and her husband are still recovering from their injuries and the family now lives in tents provided by a partner organization of Save the Children.
“My daughter doesn’t sleep anymore. She screams and yells, thinking she’s still under the rubble. She still believes that we are there,” said Amani.* “We lost all our belongings, all I have now is a blanket. We need everything. This recovery period is very difficult.”
Families affected by the earthquakes are also struggling to access food due to market shortages and price increases of items in high demand. In some districts across northern Syria that were heavily impacted by the earthquake, such as Harim, Jandaris, and Sheikh Al-Hadid, markets reported limited or no availability of basic food items.
Kathryn Achilles, Advocacy, Media and Communications Director for Save the Children Syria, said: “This is a crisis within a crisis. These earthquakes have hit in areas where children and their families were already facing huge challenges as a result of 12 years of conflict and economic crises. The majority of families who have been hardest hit have already been forced to flee their homes multiple times and have endured difficult living circumstances. There’s no time to waste, it is crucial that we help Syrian families rebuild their lives now.”
In Türkiye, most families displaced and left homeless by the earthquakes—an estimated 2.2 million people—are still in survival mode and unable to plan for their immediate future. Hundreds of settlements, made up of tents or prefabricated containers, have been set up across Hatay and other earthquake-affected provinces by families with nowhere else to go.
Melis,* 35, her husband and their two daughters are currently staying in a tent in a village on the outskirts of Antakya after their home was reduced to rubble in the earthquakes.
“We can’t leave our hometown. Both me and my husband have our workplaces here, so we must stay. That’s why our main plan is to move into a container shelter as soon as possible and keep our heads above the water in some way,” said Melis.* “We don’t have any relatives left. We lost our closest friends. I don’t know what our lives will look like in the future. We lost our self-confidence and fear about our family’s future.”
Continuing aftershocks are also preventing people whose homes weren’t affected by the earthquakes from returning, which is increasing the number of people needing shelter and support.
“What we are seeing now is more and more people gathering in overcrowded camps. Near Antakya, in some instances, three or four families are living in a single tent. Many do not have clean water or facilities to wash their clothes. Some families told us they didn’t want to shower because they have no clean clothes to change into,” said Ayse Kocak, Save the Children’s Area Manager in Hatay province.
“Many markets in the districts in Antakya are still not functioning, with some missing basic food items, due to the loss of suppliers in Antakya, which was traditionally a commercial center for Hatay province. Some families told us they are struggling to even source flour to make their own bread.“
"We’re in a race against time to avoid the secondary impacts of the earthquakes. The world must step up and provide immediate international support.”
Save the Children is responding with local partners, providing urgent lifesaving assistance in both Türkiye and Syria, where so far it has reached over 165,000 people with critical support.
In Türkiye, Save the Children is supporting children and their families in some of the worst affected provinces, such as Hatay and Gaziantep. Save the Children is working with local partners and in close coordination with the government to support the national emergency response, providing water, tents, blankets, mattresses, diapers, sanitary products, heaters, firewood, and warm clothing.
In Syria, Save the Children is delivering aid through about nine local partners, responding in Idlib, Aleppo and Raqqa governorates, and providing emergency food rations, blankets, tents, and warm clothing. Save the Children is also making sure children and their families can keep clean, healthy, and protected from illness and diseases by providing safe drinking water and essential hygiene and sanitation items.
*Name changed for protection
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