The Aftermath of the Syria-Turkey Earthquake: A Humanitarian Crisis Unfolding
On February 6th, 2023, Turkey and Syria were struck by a catastrophic earthquake of magnitude 7.8, followed by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake nine hours later. The initial quake was centred near Gaziantep in south-central Turkey, home to thousands of Syrian refugees and humanitarian aid organizations. As of February 8th, at least 317 aftershocks have been reported.
This earthquake is the most devastating to hit Turkey in over 20 years and has only added to the current humanitarian crisis in Syria. In the northwest of Syria, 4.1 million people were already dependent on humanitarian assistance, with the majority of these people being women and children. While international aid has been offered to Turkey, providing assistance to the affected people in Syria is more challenging, as the country is not controlled by a single authority. The earthquake has also stretched the existing humanitarian response, which was already underfunded, with a gap of 48% identified for the last quarter of 2022.
Earthquakes are one of the most destructive natural hazards, and Turkey’s two main fault zones make it one of the most seismically active regions in the world. However, the impact that earthquakes have on society is not inevitable. This disaster in Turkey and Syria highlights the vulnerability of poorly constructed buildings, the thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey and displaced people in northwest Syria who live in informal settlements, the destruction of infrastructure within Syria due to years of conflict and aerial bombings, and an ongoing complex humanitarian emergency in Syria due to conflict and a cholera outbreak.
For this reason, the earthquake in Turkey and Syria cannot be referred to as a “natural disaster.” Instead, it is a reminder of how our actions can lead to increased vulnerability in the face of natural hazards. Funders can play a crucial role in minimizing the impact of this disaster and future disasters by advocating for safe building construction, supporting risk communication campaigns, investing in long-term recovery that incorporates risk reduction and strengthening preparedness and resilience.
In conclusion, the Syria-Turkey Earthquake is a human-made disaster highlighting the devastating impact of vulnerability in the face of natural hazards. We can all play a role in minimising the impact of future disasters by investing in risk reduction and resilience and supporting the efforts of those working on the ground to provide aid and support to those in need.
by: Omar Ismail