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Six months on: stories from Syria since the earthquakes
6th August marked six months since devastating earthquakes hit Türkiye and northwest Syria. At least 58,000 people tragically lost their lives and many more were affected.
Concern’s Turkish and Syrian staff survived the earthquakes, but were left traumatised and many worked from their cars due to the fear of more buildings collapsing during the hundreds of aftershocks.
Since 6th February, Concern and our partners have reached 31,795 households – over 161,000 individual people with food and hygiene supplies and shelter in Türkiye and northwest Syria. This includes reaching more than 8,000 people with individual psychological support.
In February, the Disaster’s Emergency Committee (DEC) launched an appeal to raise funds for those affected by the earthquakes. The DEC brings together 15 leading UK aid charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently at times of crisis overseas. Concern is one of those members and to date the appeal has raised over £150 million. Concern used its proportion of the funds to respond in northwest Syria through three local partner organisations.
In June we spoke to Manar from one of our in-country partners responding, as well as Farhana and Shahinaz, two of the women affected by the devastating earthquakes.
Here are their experiences in their own words:
Manar* is a colleague who works for one of our in-country partners, Syria Relief. He coordinates the emergency cash projects run by the organisation. MPCA (multi-purpose cash assistance) means that people can use cash transfers to flexibly met their basic needs. For example, families can prioritise spending on their greatest needs such as food or medicine.
“Syria Relief responded immediately after the earthquake, which was a humanitarian disaster of devastating scale. Various organisations provided as much assistance as possible to the displaced, many of whom lost their entire families to the earthquake. Inside every tent you will find a story of suffering.
“The earthquake that struck northern Syria changed a lot of things. Many families were impacted and most of the buildings collapsed. There are now temporary shelters and camps that have been set up for affected families. Rescued families need different kinds of support, and we respond accordingly. Therefore, Syria Relief works across different sectors, such as WASH [Water, sanitation, and hygiene], medical and even cash assistance projects.
“The MPCA [multi-purpose cash assistance] project is run together with Concern Worldwide and aims to enable people affected by the earthquake and living in camps and temporary shelters to meet their immediate basic needs. Cash support is distributed in three rounds. Each household will receive three rounds of MPCA with the following tranches: 150 USD, then a further 100 USD, followed by a final 200 USD. We are currently in the first round.”
Farhana*, 55, has five sons and twin daughters. Four of her sons are married, except the youngest who is 17 years old. Both of her daughters are widowed with children.
“The earthquake took place at around 4am, when we were all asleep. When the vibrations started, everyone was in shock, and people started screaming. There were 36 people living in my building, including my children and grandchildren, my brother, his sons and his family. The building started to collapse as we were escaping, with rubble blocking the stairs. We managed to escape just before the building collapsed onto the market shops on the ground floor. It was raining and everything was chaotic. None of us slept further that night.
“One of my granddaughters was injured during the catastrophe. We took her to a hospital, and she stayed there for a week. Then she was taken to another hospital where she underwent surgery. We still don’t know exactly what is wrong with her.
“We suffer from many challenges every day, including a lack of adequate food and water, excessive heat in the tent and physical injuries sustained during the war as well as the recent earthquake. These things have led to conflict, even amongst family members.
“Our most urgent need is for proper shelter – following this, cash support suits us best, rather than food baskets. Thanks to the cash I have received, I can afford to buy medicine for granddaughter to treat her illness. I want her to get better and to walk again.”
Shahinaz*, 70, cares for two orphaned children – their mother and father passed away in the earthquake.
“Their house completely collapsed; it hurts me every time I remember.
“The earthquake took place at around 4am. Soon after, the neighbour’s house collapsed on top of ours. We started to scream, and thankfully we were rescued by people who pulled us out from underneath the rubble. As the door to our home was stuck, it could not be opened anymore, and the rescuers had to kick it down to reach me and the children.
“After the disaster, we stayed for a while with relatives and neighbours. We were not able to retrieve anything from our home – everything that we owned remains buried under the rubble.
“We are grateful to the organisations that have visited and provided food baskets and cash support to buy basic items for ourselves. With the 150 USD we received, I want to buy some new clothes for the children. We lost all our clothes to the earthquake and have been surviving off donations. It is hard for the children to understand that we cannot afford many things, such as ice-cream, anymore.
“The extreme heat in the tent is intolerable – look at how I am sweating. I have been feeling sick over the last few days and am suffering from a headache. We used to own a washing machine and fans, but now we hand-wash our clothes.
“My biggest fear is having to remain in a tent. This life leaves us exposed to the elements and vulnerable.”
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