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One year on, for survivors of Türkiye-Syria quakes the suffering is far from over

In the early hours of 6 February 2023, a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the border region between the two countries, claiming over 50,000 lives in Türkiye and a further 5,900 in Syria, with thousands more injured.

“Thousands of families have yet to heal from the impact of the devastation; survivors live with the loss and trauma of those frightful days,” Martin Griffiths, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement.

“Today, our thoughts are again with the survivors and those who lost loved ones. And for those who still need humanitarian assistance, our pledge remains to do all we can to continue to help,” he added.

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The disaster compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis in Syria, where some 16.7 million people will need assistance in 2024. There are a further 1.75 million Syrian refugees in earthquake-affected regions of Türkiye.

In both countries, entire communities were razed to the ground and thousands of buildings – including schools, hospitals, mosques and churches – were destroyed or severely damaged.

New and urgent health needs

The consequences of the catastrophe will last many years to come, with a lot of people still in temporary shelters, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) warned.

The health agency’s spokesperson, Tarik Jasarevic, said that in Türkiye, the earthquake created new and urgent health needs for both refugee and host populations.

“The disaster disrupted access to health services, including maternal and newborn healthcare, vaccination, non-communicable disease management, mental health support and disability and rehabilitation services,” he told reporters at a press briefing at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).

In Syria, the earthquake hit communities that had already been deeply affected during the 13-year-long conflict-driven crisis, characterized by repeated displacement leading to food insecurity, disease outbreaks and a severely weakened health system, he added.

WHO and health partners continue to deliver health services for maternal and child health, prevention of cholera and other outbreaks, physical rehabilitation as well as mental health and psychosocial support.

The support of the international community is crucial for WHO and partners to continue delivering much needed health services in Syria, Mr. Jasarevic added.

Türkiye Earthquake – one year later

Refugees need longer-term solutions

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has been delivering protection assistance, including psychosocial support, shelter, cash assistance and other aid, to affected people in Syria.

In Türkiye, in support of the Government-led response, the agency provided over three million relief items, including tents, containers, hygiene kits, bedding and warm clothing for refugees and local residents in temporary accommodation centres.

While UNHCR appreciates the timely and generous aid offered by donors, it appeals for continued support to ensure critical humanitarian needs can be met, spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said at the UNOG press briefing.

“To facilitate better responsibility sharing with Türkiye, [we are] also calling for an expansion of resettlement opportunities for refugees, some of the most vulnerable of whom require longer-term solutions and a fresh start elsewhere,” she added.

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