On February 6, 2023, a devastating earthquake of 7.8 magnitude struck southern Turkey near the Syrian border, followed just nine hours later by another one of 7.5 magnitude, approximately 59 miles southwest of the first. As of February 24, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) reported that over 9,100 aftershocks had been recorded, and they will persist for some time to come.
The first earthquake was comparable in intensity to the most potent earthquake ever recorded in the region, which occurred in 1939.
Death Toll and the Aftermath of the Disaster
According to the most recent reports from both countries, more than 50,000 lives have been lost as a result of the earthquakes. AFAD has announced 44,218 deaths in Turkey alone, while Syria has reported 5,914 fatalities.
Around 240,000 rescue workers, including many volunteers, are operating in Turkey’s 11 devastated provinces, parts of which were initially completely inaccessible. The death toll continues to rise, and there have been no recent reports of any more survivors being found.
Almost 530,000 people have been evacuated in Turkey alone, where the government has reported that 173,000 buildings have collapsed or suffered severe damage, including some that had been built to withstand shocks in the earthquake-prone region. More than 1.9 million survivors are in hotels and temporary shelters, including tents, container homes, and other government-provided accommodations.
The Global Response to the Emergency
The February 6 earthquake had its epicenter near Gaziantep, a city in south-central Turkey, which already provided shelter to thousands of refugees from nearby Syria. The Turkish government is in charge of the emergency response and relief efforts, coordinated by AFAD and working alongside the Turkish Red Crescent. A Level 4 emergency was declared, prompting a call for international assistance which was quickly responded to by governments worldwide who sent rescue teams and emergency aid.
The current complex humanitarian crisis in Syria is already one of the world’s most severe, and the earthquakes have worsened the existing and dramatic emergency situation. 4.1 million people in northwestern Syria are already dependent on humanitarian assistance for their survival. UN-coordinated aid previously arrived across the border from Turkey, so it is now even more difficult to reach these most vulnerable populations. The UN has ramped up its cross-border relief operations, and as of February 27 had sent nearly 300 trucks loaded with aid into Syria.
The earthquake also caused a dam to collapse in northwest Syria, causing the Orontes River to overflow. The consequent flooding displaced at least another 7,000 people, in a cascading disaster impact that also increased the risk of waterborne disease contagion.
Ways to Donate to Help Victims in Turkey and Syria
There are several organizations accepting donations to help with relief efforts in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, providing various forms of aid such as shelter, food, and medical care.
UNICEF is working in both countries providing aid to families and children, while the Turkish Red Crescent is ensuring nutritional support and encouraging blood donations to maintain adequate supplies for the wounded. Humanity & Inclusion will expand its Syrian and Turkish teams to provide additional mental health support and rehabilitation services.
Mercy Corps is focusing its efforts on the urgent needs of conflict-torn northwest Syria, where millions of displaced people are already living in temporary camps and the recent earthquake destruction of houses and apartments has intensified the need for emergency shelter during the coldest part of winter.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Syrian American Medical Society are both providing urgent support in hospitals that were already struggling before the earthquakes, while the International Medical Corps is responding by providing medical care and supplies. CARE International and the Syrian Emergency Task Force are both organizing deliveries of tents, mattresses, blankets, food, water, medicine and other supplies that are essential for survival in the harsh weather.
Avoiding Charity Scams
There are several ways to ensure that funds go to the right place. Do thorough research before donating, to ensure that your contribution goes to a trustworthy organization with a proven history of delivering aid where it is needed. Find the relief efforts that are active in the hardest hit areas, and support local organizations where possible, as they often have a better understanding of local needs and can be more effective in delivering aid quickly and efficiently.
Be wary of unsolicited emails and phone calls asking for donations, and don’t give in to high-pressure tactics. Be cautious of unfamiliar third-party platforms, websites and social media appeals, as scammers can easily create convincing fake pages and donation campaigns. Never give out personal or financial information without verifying the organization or individual who is collecting funds, and don’t share information such as social security numbers or credit card details over the phone or by email.
Monitoring platforms such as CharityWatch and CharityNavigator evaluate and rate the finances, accountability, and transparency of charities to help donors make informed decisions. Finally, report any suspicious activity or fraudulent organizations to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud.