This article was updated on February 28, 2023.
Following the powerful earthquakes that hit Turkey and Syria on February 6, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are responding to the increasing needs. MSF teams in northwestern Syria began treating patients within the first hours after the earthquakes struck. MSF emergency teams are assessing the needs in the most affected areas of southern Turkey, officially renamed Türkiye. More than 50,000 people have been killed and many more injured and left homeless across the two countries. The death toll is expected to rise as bodies are recovered from the rubble. Two MSF staff members have died, while others have lost family members and loved ones.
How MSF is helping in Türkiye and Syria:
- On February 19, an MSF convoy of 14 trucks entered northwestern Syria from Türkiye carrying tents for families left homeless by the recent disaster and winter kits to insulate the tents from the cold. On February 26, MSF sent another convoy of 15 trucks carrying 1,234 tents and winter kits.
- From February 6 to 12, MSF-supported facilities treated more than 7,600 people injured in the quake and recorded around 1,000 deaths.
- MSF has supported 32 hospitals and health facilities in Idlib, Azaz, Afrin, Mare’, Bab al-Hawa, and other towns in northwestern Syria with donations of emergency kits, trauma kits, medical supplies and laboratory equipment, medicines, laboratory and medical consumables, and blankets.
- On February 13, MSF launched a mobile clinic in Jinderis, Aleppo governorate, to care for displaced people. On the first day alone, we treated 119 patients including children, pregnant women, and people with injuries, in addition to providing mental health consultations. We also worked with local partners to distribute more than 515 kits including hygiene items, kitchen tools, and winter supplies and blankets to affected people in Jinderis and families in reception centers in Azaz and Mare’ and surrounding villages.
- In Türkiye, MSF is working in partnership with local nongovernmental and civil society organizations to provide donations of essential supplies.
What is MSF doing in Syria?
Key figures (as of February 24, 2023)
- Relief items distributed: 30,232
- Mobile clinic consultations: 5,667
- Mental health consultations: 450
- Medical supplies donated: 27 tons
- Hospitals supported: 32
Since the first earthquakes struck, our Syrian colleagues immediately began working to provide help and care, even as they weathered the disaster themselves. We received the tragic news of the death of two of our colleagues who were found under the rubble. Some have lost their loved ones and their homes. We are in close touch with our colleagues inside northwestern Syria, providing them with psychological support and other services.
MSF-supported health facilities in Aleppo and Idlib governorates have treated more than 7,600 injured people and reported around 1,000 deaths. We treated more than 200 patients in the first hours after the quakes.
We're providing psychological first-aid in the facilities we’re supporting and across the mobile clinics.
MSF activated an immediate response based on its emergency preparedness plan, supporting hospitals in Idlib and Aleppo with emergency kits, trauma kits, and surgical kits. We have supported hospitals with senior staff from our teams. We have also increased bed capacity in our medical facilities by adding tents where needed, as well as dressing points.
According to the World Health Organization, 55 health facilities in the region have been damaged or destroyed–including the hospital in Jinderis, one of the most affected towns in Aleppo governorate, which is unable to continue treating patients. Two MSF-supported maternity centers were evacuated, due to the risk of the buildings collapsing.
MSF teams are adapting their response in Syria to offer immediate relief and medical support. The pillars of the first few days of the response were supporting medical facilities to treat patients with material and staffing support, facilitating transport of patients by ambulance, and providing relief items to people affected by the quakes. Today, MSF has scaled up efforts, deploying mobile clinics, distributing relief items, implementing water and sanitation and logistics activities, and offering psychological first aid.
In the wake of the disaster, MSF supported 32 hospitals and health facilities in northwestern Syria, including in Idlib, Azaz, Afrin, Mare', Bab al-Hawa, and others, with donations of emergency kits, trauma kits, medical supplies, and blankets. We also sent medical staff, including surgeons, to support hospitals dealing with the influx of wounded people.
We cared for injured patients in four health facilities in Idlib governorate and we increased the capacity of the hospitals we were already working in by adding triage tents.
We also deployed ambulances and supported 90 more to facilitate the transfer of patients in need of emergency assistance to the closest health facilities.
Two weeks after the quakes we have scaled up efforts, deploying mobile clinics and distributing relief items to affected people.
We have launched mobile clinics in three reception centers and eleven camps for displaced people in northwestern Syria to offer essential medical services to people affected by the earthquakes.
Our teams also launched a mental health hotline to provide psychosocial support in the region.
In Aleppo governorate, in collaboration with local partners, we distributed food and blankets to more than 500 families in the reception centers in Afrin. Similarly, we distributed more than 800 kits, including hygiene items, kitchen kits, winter kits, and blankets to affected people in Jinderis, one of the worst-affected cities, and families in reception centers in Azaz and Mare’ and surrounding villages. MSF had distributed 19,594 blankets in northwestern Syria.
Offering immediate relief support to people affected by the earthquakes—particularly those without shelter in the cold weather—will remain a priority for our team. We will continue to assess the needs and adapt our response accordingly.
Donations of supplies
On Sunday, February 26, MSF brought in a convoy of 15 trucks carrying 1,234 tents and winter kits to be distributed to displaced people. In addition, 24 tons of medical items have been imported in preparation for scaling up of activities.
What is the situation in northwestern Syria?
In northwestern Syria, the earthquakes came on top of existing emergencies. Years of war, a dire economic situation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and—most recently—an outbreak of cholera had already plunged the region into a humanitarian crisis and pushed medical facilities to the brink.
Houses and buildings have been destroyed throughout the region, leaving thousands of people homeless. Those who lost their homes are now stranded outside in cold temperatures, and many are sleeping in their cars due to the fear of further aftershocks that have continued until yesterday.
There are now even more displaced people in a region where 2.8 million—out of a total population of 4 million—were already displaced. The massive consequences of this disaster will require an equally massive international aid effort. International aid must reach northwestern Syria as soon as possible.
What are the main needs we’re seeing in Syria?
In the aftermath of the earthquakes, people need shelter, food, blankets, clothes, heating materials, hygiene kits, and medical assistance. Accordingly, we have been treating injured people in northwestern Syria and supporting health facilities.
MSF’s main priority is providing immediate relief support to people affected by the earthquakes, particularly those without shelter.
We are witnessing a lack of fuel, electricity, and adequate water and sanitation. Access to mental health support also remains challenging, including for our staff.
How is humanitarian aid reaching northwestern Syria?
Bab al-Hawa is the main UN-supported humanitarian crossing through which essential medical supplies can enter northwestern Syria from Türkiye. On February 13, two additional crossing points (Bab al-Salam and Al Ra’ee) from Türkiye to northwestern Syria were announced open for an initial period of three months. We hope this will help ensure the timely and effective delivery of humanitarian aid, and support the call for more access points to be made available for humanitarian help to enter northwestern Syria.
It’s clear that the current response is not covering the huge needs. The humanitarian response must be scaled up immediately and directed much closer to the communities in northwestern Syria who are in dire need of shelter, food, heating materials, and medical care.
What is MSF doing in Türkiye?
Key figures (as of February 25, 2023)
- More than 27,000 hygiene kits distributed
- More than 14,000 relief items distributed
- More than 20,000 liters of water provided
- More than 180,000 meals served
- More than 9,000 food items distributed
- More than 34 metric tons of wood distributed
Because MSF is not registered in Türkiye, all MSF relief activities are carried out in collaboration with local nongovernmental and civil society organizations.
Supply donations and water and sanitation
MSF teams donated generators as well as more than 7,000 hygiene kits and relief items, such as blankets, sleeping bags, power banks, electrical stoves, diapers, and winter clothing. We have also donated more than 20,000 liters of water, a vehicle for transporting medicine, and fuel for mobile clinics.
We have donated 250 hygiene kits and 400 thermal undergarments for first responders (health care workers and search and rescue teams) and donated food in villages on the outskirts of the town.
MSF donated 3,000 hygiene kits to the Turkish Red Crescent.
MSF teams donated medical and non-medical items to Islahiye hospital and a camp for displaced people, as well as hygiene kits to the Turkish Red Crescent.
In Hatay we have donated more than 3,000 relief items, tents, and 14,000 hygiene kits and provided food and water for hospitals. MSF teams have also donated more than 8,000 food items, including bread and food kits. And we've improved access to water and sanitation in the town and makeshift camps for displaced people by installing more than 60 showers in camps and three water points in parks.
In addition, MSF supported a partner organization in conducting mobile clinics focusing on mother and child care (prenatal care, neonatal care, infant and child care) ands made a medical donation of scabies treatment.
MSF supported the distribution of 180,000 hot meals to 6,000 people in four camps in Kilis with the International Blue Crescent and Turkish Red Crescent.
MSF assessed water and sanitation needs in rural areas of the Nurdağı district.
Kahramanmaras, Pazarcik, and Kayseri
MSF teams donated relief items, such as sleeping bags, winter clothes for babies, and personal care items, as well as hygiene kits. Our teams also provided fresh fruit and vegetables to organizations offering meals to displaced people.
MSF donated 500 hygiene kits and 150 packs of adult diapers for people in informal camps and villages in hard-to-reach areas.
Mental health support
Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Pazarcik and Kayseri
MSF has provided mental health and psychosocial support for people affected by the earthquake, including volunteers and search and rescue teams engaged in the response through individual and group work. We've also donated pedagogical materials for psychosocial workshops.
What is the situation in southern Türkiye?
According to officials, more than 1.5 million people in Türkiye have been left homeless by the earthquakes and their aftershocks, which caused thousands of building to collapse.
National search and rescue teams are concluding activities in towns like Malatya, Adiyaman, Gaziantep, and other areas affected by the quakes. Bulldozers are removing tons of rubble. The authorities are inspecting buildings that are still standing.
Across the most-affected cities, tens of thousands of buildings have been damaged. Continuing aftershocks have left people displaced by the quakes afraid to return to their homes. Many informal camps for displaced people have sprung up in open spaces like stadiums, squares, and in streets. Many people are sleeping in their cars to keep warm, as temperatures drop well below freezing at night in some areas.
Many other people have chosen to leave for rural areas outside the cities, where the quakes caused less damage. These people are also in need of humanitarian aid and shelter. In settlements outside cities it is now common for 20 or 30 people to share small houses with just a few rooms.
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