Reviving Local Economies from the Ground Up After the Syria-Türkiye Earthquake

Published: Nov 13, 2023 Reading time: 4 minutes
Reviving Local Economies from the Ground Up After the Syria-Türkiye Earthquake
© Foto: Muhammet Necip Şağar

When Syria and Türkiye were struck by the earthquake of 6 February, the livelihoods of thousands of business owners crumbled alongside their homes. The earthquake's aftermath left many businesses in ruins; with the labour market in disarray and thousands of businesses destroyed, the region faced unprecedented challenges for business owners and workers.

Post-earthquake assessments indicate a 16.0% reduction in economic activity and an alarming $150 million monthly dip in labour income. It is estimated that 220,000 businesses are severely damaged and will be demolished. In reality, these statistics translate into real hardship for the 14 million affected people—including more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees—and suggest that the situation may worsen soon.

Before the disaster, local entrepreneurs like 44-year-old Mehmet Yağlıcalı, who had dedicated 15 years to his Tantuni shop in the centre of Gölbaşı village in Adıyaman province—a place that used to be very lively—found himself standing in a container amid the ruins of his business. He now had to restart his business from the ground up despite the economic challenges and the unclear future.

Similarly, Mehmet Sait Kara, a 42-year-old who has owned a market for over two decades, now faces his income being halved since relocating to a container on the site of his former market. He and many others are worried about the upcoming winter; they are concerned that their makeshift businesses in temporary containers will succumb to the harsh weather that winter brings.

The impact of the earthquake was more than economic—it was a blow to the local community as a whole, as it caused immigration, trauma, and poverty. In response—with funding from Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund —we launched a targeted grant project aimed at reviving the small businesses that are essential to the community's recovery. We have already channelled grants to 169 business owners, totalling approximately $100,000, and we have plans to reach around 29 additional enterprises. We aim to positively impact the lives of thousands in Adıyaman, Gaziantep, and Kahramanmaraş—the most earthquake-affected provinces.

Our initiative also aims to enable residents to revive their businesses and regain some sense of normalcy post-earthquake. For recipients like Mehmet, the grant allowed him to purchase a workstation and materials necessary to continue his trade. "Without this grant, I would have had to work for someone else. But now, I stand on my own two feet, and provide for my family," Mehmet expresses with gratitude.

Serdar Hatu, a butcher, reflects a blend of challenge and optimism. The destruction of his shop meant starting from scratch. Our grant was pivotal in equipping his new space with the refrigerators and tables essential for his work.

"This grant gave me a fighting chance to stand on my feet again; without it, I would have had to borrow money, which I am against. I want to support my family independently," he states, shedding light on the community's commitment to healing.

Although our grant supports business owners in restarting their businesses, business owners still face many problems, such as a lack of customers, increasing bills, prices, and harsh weather conditions for the containers. Furthermore, they endure disordered placement of their containers and polluted air due to the demolishing and cleaning of damaged buildings and ruins in the city. However, they stand firm in the face of such problems, believing in a better future for themselves, their families, and the local community.

"We will always work and won't lose hope, no matter what happens," said Tahir Çetin, a phone and watch repairer who lost his workplace along with his stock and equipment.

"Although I'm facing many difficulties in paying for my children's education, and there isn't much work due to people leaving the city after the earthquake, I am determined to look to the future optimistically to ensure a better future for my children," he continues, explaining the motive behind his determination to rebuild his work from the start.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Tahta, a 50-year-old clothing shop owner who turned to day labour post-earthquake until he could restock and resume his business in a container, emphasises the importance of solidarity during such times and the necessity of perseverance.

"Whatever happens, we can't give up, and we have to support each other, even if we have to start all over again," he states.

Ibrahim ensures his shop is stocked with affordable, essential clothing that the city needs. "By reviving local businesses, we're not just rebuilding structures; we're restoring the heartbeat of the community," Ibrahim asserts.

Through such projects, we aim not only to return to what was but to support earthquake-affected business owners in creating sustainable enterprises that can provide for them and their families while helping the local community heal and work toward a brighter future. 

Autor: Muhammet Necip Şağar, PIN Syria and Türkiye Communication Manager

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