AMMAN (February 13, 2023) – Global humanitarian organization World Vision says the February 6, 2023, earthquake in Syria and Türkiye (Turkey) has created need greater than any other natural disaster they’ve responded to in over a decade.
With over 70 years of experience in responding to emergencies, the organization says the already dire humanitarian conditions and mass displacement in northwest Syria caused by 12 years of conflict have combined with devastating loss of life, injuries, and damage from the earthquake and harsh winter conditions to create uniquely devastating suffering. “To say it’s challenging is an understatement,” noted Johan Mooij, World Vision’s Syria crisis response director.
“Beyond the spiraling death toll, this earthquake in northwest Syria is unique because 4 million people were already completely dependent on humanitarian aid prior to Monday’s disaster and access to this area was, and is, extremely constrained due to conflict dynamics.”
World Vision teams began responding quickly on Monday to assess and plan responses to the most urgent needs, including access to temporary shelter, clean water, healthcare and protection for vulnerable children, as well as medical supplies for health facilities struggling to respond to growing needs.
The organization provided 17,000 liters of fuel to health facilities as well as search and rescue teams in northwest Syria to enable them to keep transporting and treating the wounded, along with much-needed heaters and fuel for more than 1,605 impacted households seeking refuge in collective shelters.
“Entire streets and villages have been reduced to rubble, whole families killed, and millions left homeless,” Mooij said. “People already living in extreme poverty have lost what little they had. Prior to the quake, six or seven people were sharing tents due to the scale of displaced from the conflict. Now it’s 16 or 17 people in each tent. Children have been traumatized and will need psychosocial and physical support to deal with the impact of this disaster.”
Mooij said devastation and suffering this scale hasn’t been seen in over a decade.
“The impact is so enormous that … it could take a generation for survivors to recover, and maybe longer in northern Syria where millions were already living on humanitarian aid with few prospects of their lives improving,” he said.
“The amount of money and effort it will take to rebuild the structural damage could take a generation to get to pre-earthquake levels. This is especially the case in northwest Syria where the humanitarian response plan has been consistently underfunded for most of the past 12 years.
“Hospitals and health clinics that survived the earthquake in Syria were already overstretched and underfunded—now they are unable to even keep the power on due to lack of fuel. Families who have been displaced multiple times already due to the Syrian conflict have been displaced again. This is a humanitarian emergency that is catastrophic in historic terms [and] requires an aid response that is historic in its generosity.
“We urge all governments to provide adequate funding in order to meet the chronic needs of the people in Syria and Turkey and to be more flexible than ever when it comes to granting access. … This isn’t a time for bureaucracy, it’s a time for humanity. Holding back will only worsen the impact—and considering how bad things are now, that is something we cannot afford to even imagine.”