Rebuilding from The Rubble: PIN Creates Jobs for Reconstruction in Post-Earthquake SyriaPublished: Apr 27, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
The dust has settled. Rescue operations have long since stopped. The initial shock of the earthquake is beginning to wane as people across northwest Syria look to the future.
Two months have passed since the earthquake, and while emergency needs remain high, PIN is implementing a cash-for-work programme to facilitate the first step towards reconstruction and recovery. With funding from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and Stichting Vluchteling (Netherlands Refugee Foundation), this project employs out-of-work residents in earthquake-affected communities to begin clearing rubble and debris.
In quake-stricken areas in northwest Syria, PIN is creating job opportunities while simultaneously providing the tools and equipment needed for the first phase of reconstruction.
From Refuge to Ruin
Salqin, five kilometres from the Turkish border and surrounded by olive orchards and fruit trees, was once a peaceful agricultural town before the war broke out. It was soon overwhelmed by successive waves of internally displaced Syrians who sought the relative safety of this sleepy village, which managed to escape the airstrikes and shelling that levelled countless neighbourhoods in northwest Syria.
As a result of this rapid and informal urbanisation, poorly constructed buildings sprung up to accommodate tens of thousands of new residents. By the end of last year, Salqin was home to 200,000 people – more than double its pre-war population. Salqin became a sprawling jungle of hastily built apartment blocks housing displaced Syrians from all over the country. Yet the emergence of many unlicensed, multi-storey buildings led to fateful consequences in the early hours of the 6th of February.
The earthquake that struck Türkiye and northwest Syria that night brought down almost a hundred of these new apartment blocks, claiming a thousand lives in the process.
“No one thought something like this would happen,” said Ammar, a resident of Salqin, “We felt great shaking, left and right. We thought it was doomsday. I hugged my pregnant wife and daughters since I thought we were all going to die. When I hugged them, rubble began falling on my back and head. My wife had a broken arm, a dislocated shoulder and a head injury. One of my daughters was injured too.”
A few hours later the sun rose, revealing the scale of destruction. Ammar lost 34 relatives in the quake that night.
“Many buildings were totally destroyed or severely damaged; many are marked now as ‘to be evacuated’. Even though some buildings appear to still be standing, the internal structure and pillars are so badly damaged and weakened that they need to be demolished.”
Two months on from the earthquake, and Salqin remains a scarred and battered husk of its old self. The psychological scars will take time to heal too.
“We do not know how things will develop,” said Ammar, “Women and children keep crying even if there are no aftershocks.”
The Road to Recovery
While the emotional and physical trauma after the earthquake will be harder to mend, clearing debris is one of the first tangible steps towards recovery. Ammar, who once found employment in the region’s thriving agricultural sector, fell out of work as job opportunities began to dissipate as a result of the war. After the earthquake, he signed up to PIN’s cash-for-work project.
“I am working in rubble clearing and removal. The destruction is far beyond description, but we are helping the people here,” he said, “After the earthquake, I volunteered to remove rubble in my own neighbourhood. Our job is very important, since in this town many neighbourhoods are narrow with winding stairs everywhere instead of flat streets. We have to collect the rubble so it can be loaded away and moved to open the streets again.”
Hundreds of residents like Ammar across northwest Syria are now employed under PIN’s rubble-removal project, clearing their hometowns of debris brick by brick. Their hard work will begin the arduous process of reconstruction and recovery in northwest Syria.