On February 6, 2023, a powerful earthquake hit southeast Turkey (officially the Republic of Türkiye) and the northwest region of war-torn Syria, leaving millions of people in urgent need of basic necessities like shelter, food, clean water, and sanitation.
Among those affected is Muhammad (name changed to protect identity), a 10-year-old Syrian boy whose home was destroyed. Now living in a makeshift tent with his family, he says, “I want to go back home and return to school. I [miss] school so much.”
Muhammad’s story is one of many heartbreaking examples of struggles faced by children and families. Even in the face of these challenges, there is hope that vulnerable people affected by this disaster can access vital support to rebuild their lives.
FAQs: What you need to know about the 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake
Explore frequently asked questions about the Turkey–Syria earthquake, and learn how you can help.
- Fast facts: 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake
- How many people were affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria?
- How has the earthquake impacted survivors?
- Where did the February 6, 2023, earthquake strike?
- What risks do children face in the aftermath of the earthquake?
- How and where is World Vision responding to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria?
- How many people has World Vision helped since the earthquake hit Turkey and Syria?
- How is World Vision supporting recovery and rehabilitation efforts in Turkey and Syria?
- How long has World Vision worked in the Middle East?
- How can I help disaster survivors today?
Fast facts: 2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake
- On February 6, 2023, at 4:17 a.m. local time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southeast Turkey near the Syrian border.
- After the first quake, aftershocks numbering in the thousands rumbled across the region, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
- In Syria, 3.7 million children face a deepening crisis, with the earthquake exacerbating the effects of the ongoing war.
- In Turkey, 2.5 million children — many of them Syrian refugees — are at increased risk of poverty, child labor, or child marriage in the aftermath of the disaster.
- Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world, some 3.6 million Syrians, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.
- According to Turkey’s Ministry of Interior, 2.6 million people are living in tent cities, while 1.6 million are living in informal sites or alongside their damaged homes — the majority of them in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
- Catastrophic damage to agricultural infrastructure in 11 provinces in Turkey is disrupting basic food production and livelihoods for rural people.
How many people were affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria?
Close to 18 million people in Turkey and Syria have been impacted by the disaster, with over 55,000 dead and nearly 130,000 injured. Millions have been displaced from their homes, with over 10 million in need of urgent aid.
How has the earthquake impacted survivors?
Millions of people in Turkey and Syria are in urgent need of humanitarian support:
- Cities across the region suffered widespread destruction, with nearly 50,000 buildings — including apartment buildings, schools, and hospitals — now in ruins or too damaged to enter.
- People are struggling to access essential healthcare, with only 1 in 7 health centers even partially functional, according to the U.N.
- The loss of safe housing and access to school is making children more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and family separation.
- Children also face exposure to waterborne diseases and hypothermia without access to clean water or shelter.
- Flooding from heavy rainfall six weeks after the earthquake compounded the suffering of vulnerable families. Johan Mooij, World Vision’s Syria response director, said: “Syrian and Turkish children and their families are being displaced once again as cars, homes, and tents are drowning in contaminated waters, and have nowhere safe or warm to sleep.”
Where did the February 6, 2023, earthquake strike in Turkey and Syria?
The powerful earthquake struck near the cities of Nurdağı and Gaziantep in Gaziantep Province, just outside the regional capital, which hosts millions of Syrian refugees.
- In Turkey: The disaster compounded the already dire situation in the area, beset by the 12-year Syria conflict and refugee crisis. Eleven Turkish provinces, including Adana, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, and Sanliurfa, were hit, affecting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supporting Syrians through cross-border humanitarian operations.
- In Syria: The quake severely impacted the cities of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama, and Idlib, causing significant damage and resulting in the collapse of numerous buildings and the destruction of water systems.
What risks do children face in the aftermath of the earthquake?
The devastating earthquake has left millions of children in Syria and Turkey in dire need of humanitarian aid.
Children in crisis situations like this one, especially those already living in poverty or areas affected by conflict, become even more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and family separation. With buildings and structures rendered unsafe by the quake, children are unable to return to school, putting their education and futures at risk.
“We got really cold”
In Syria, children like Muhammad (above; *name changed for protection) now face uncertainty and tremendous difficulties. Muhammad credits his survival to the heroic efforts of his father, who rushed him and his family out of their crumbling home during the earthquake. “We were sleeping, my father woke us up, he told us go downstairs quickly,” says Muhammad. “My father started to push us down the stairs. We went out to the street barefoot, without shoes or anything. It was raining and we felt so cold. We stayed out till morning.”
Now, Muhammad’s life is turned upside down. He and his family live in a temporary shelter, crammed into one of the white tents that dot the ruin-strewn landscape in northwest Syria.
He hopes to return to school and longs to once again fill his days with homework. “I have always been the first in my class since grade one,” he said. “I [miss] my friends, my teachers, and my school.” The earthquake impacted the lives of nearly 4 million schoolchildren, and while some have begun returning to school, many more like Muhammad are still waiting for access.
Meanwhile, in Turkey, poverty, child labor, and child marriage pose a threat to the well-being of 2.5 million children — many of them Syrian refugees.
Widespread damage to water systems has also put millions of children across the region at risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and Hepatitis A. Doctors have warned that urgent action is needed to prevent an outbreak of disease.
Mental health, already strained before the earthquake by ongoing regional conflict, is expected to deteriorate further in the aftermath of the disaster. Women, children, and young adults in Syria had already been struggling with alarming suicidal thoughts and perceptions as a result of the overall stress of their environment.
How and where is World Vision responding to the disaster in Turkey and Syria?
To maximize our impact, we’re partnering with 15 local organizations. Our emergency response priorities include helping support affected people with access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) resources, healthcare, shelter, and protection and care for vulnerable children. Our current response areas include Aleppo, Afrin, Azaz, and Idlib in northern Syria, as well as Gaziantep and Sanliurfa in Turkey.
How many people has World Vision helped since the earthquake hit Turkey and Syria?
In the first few weeks of our response, we helped support over 50,000 people with life-saving essentials, including food, heaters and fuel, hygiene kits, cash assistance, and more.
As of March 25, our teams have supported:
- 9,600 people in Turkey with a month’s worth of clean water
- 11,463 people in Syria with meals
- More than 2,000 households in Syria through cash assistance
- 1,447 households in Syria with blankets and other relief items
How is World Vision supporting recovery and rehabilitation efforts in Turkey and Syria?
In the first 30 days of the urgent response, we provided life-saving aid for severely impacted children and families in both countries. Our goal is to reach a total of 1 million people, including 605,000 between March and September. Our programming through September will include:
- In Syria: Continuation of existing programs, including the provision of health services for more than 100,000 people through eight primary health care centers and one maternity ward. Ongoing efforts include cash distributions and the repair and maintenance of water stations.
- In Turkey: Rehabilitation of critical water and sanitation systems, educational and livelihoods programs, and care for vulnerable children.
How long has World Vision worked in the Middle East?
World Vision has been working in the Middle East region for nearly 40 years. We’re dedicated to improving the lives of children, families, and the communities where they live through long-term sustainable development as well as responding to disasters — both natural and man-made.
World Vision quickly came alongside Syrian families who fled to Lebanon in 2011. Since then, our work has expanded to other countries hosting Syrian refugees and into Syria. Children and their long-term needs are always our first priority.
In 2022, we reached more than 1.9 million people in Syria — 45% of them children — with life-saving aid through our health, child protection, education, nutrition, psychosocial support, livelihoods, and WASH programming.
Since the Syrian refugee crisis began, we’ve helped more than 7.5 million children and their families in the region. World Vision is continuing to provide aid to children and families in Syria, Jordan, and Turkey, all of whom have suffered from ongoing conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis.
How can I help disaster survivors today?
You can help World Vision continue to respond to disasters like this earthquake around the world.
- Please give today to help vulnerable children and families suffering in the aftermath of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
- Pray: Join us in praying for all those affected by this tragedy. Almighty Father, we ask for Your mercy and guidance for survivors who have lost loved ones, homes, and communities. We pray for the World Vision staff and partners who are working to bring them help and resources. Please grant discernment and wisdom to these teams that they might steward resources effectively and swiftly on behalf of those in desperate need. Please keep displaced children and adults safe from inclement weather and other hazards, especially girls and women who are more vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Give all those affected patience, peace, and hope that their lives will be restored.