Oxfam and partners mount earthquake response in Turkiye and Syria amidst devastating loss of life and destruction of property

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 07 Feb 2023

Oxfam and its partner organisations in Turkiye and Syria are assessing the fastest, most appropriate humanitarian efforts to help affected people in the aftermath of Monday’s devastating earthquake – the biggest in Turkiye since 1938.

An Oxfam staff member in Turkiye, who is also an experienced mountaineer, has travelled to support an official search-and-rescue mission mounted by Turkish authorities, which called on civilian mountaineers to help.

Oxfam’s spokesperson in the capital of Ankara, Meryem Aslan, said:

“The scale of destruction is vast. Following two big earthquakes and over 60 aftershocks, people are still in shock and fear, they don’t even have time to mourn the lost ones.”

Ms Aslan said she had managed to reach family and friends in affected areas by phone, and while thankful they were alive and well, she said many buildings and homes were now rubble.

Oxfam KEDV, the Oxfam affiliate in Turkiye, has partnerships with around 80 women’s cooperatives in 10 Turkish provinces most affected by the quake and is currently assessing response plans with them given the scale of devastation. An Oxfam team is travelling to affected areas tomorrow (Tuesday) to conduct assessments, as part of the official National Disaster Response Platform.

“It is a double tragedy for survivors having to cope too with the cold and who will be unable to sleep outside. It is horrifying to contemplate how people will even be able to cope, given that some areas are even now in snow,” said Ms Aslan.

“Reaching survivors will be extremely challenging with many roads and highways damaged or blocked, and over vast distances. Even as Turkiye has a lot of expertise in dealing with the aftermath of earthquakes, the scale of this one is daunting. The death toll has already reached 1500 people and is growing. The number of survivors who may be left now with absolutely nothing is likely to be huge,” she said.

“Oxfam, together with partners, is gathering urgent information to assess the scale of devastation and what people most urgently need. Typically, Oxfam and partners would look to provide protection, water and sanitation, shelter and food support, and in the longer-term, rehabilitation and reconstruction. We are now assessing the type of immediate and longer-term support that is needed.

“We know that all countries affected by this awful earthquake, and the survivors of it, will need a lot of help and support – not only in the immediate short-term, but in the days and weeks and months ahead.”

In Syria, the cities of Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Idlib have been badly hit by both the earthquake and continuous, severe aftershocks that have driven people into the streets fearing further collapses of buildings. Dozens of buildings have been badly damaged across Aleppo and 46 are reported to have collapsed, as nightly temperatures are expected to drop below zero degrees. Shelter, food, water, fuel and medical care for those who have been injured are desperately needed.

For Syria, this earthquake hits at a time when the humanitarian need in the country is at its highest. Over 15 million people are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance and support.

For interviews with spokespeople in the region and Australia, contact Lily Partland on 0418 118 687 / lilyp@oxfam.org.au