Türkiye/Syria earthquake: 6 months on

Published: Aug 5, 2023 Reading time: 8 minutes
Türkiye/Syria earthquake: 6 months on
© Foto: Zaynab Mayladan/PIN

Exactly six months have elapsed since a series of devastating earthquakes struck Türkiye and northwest Syria. These earthquakes have left behind destruction and heartache in the lives of thousands. Today we commemorate the stories of those who continue to find strength in the face of overwhelming challenges. 

In Türkiye alone, the earthquake claimed over 57,000 lives, with 297 still missing and 107,204 injured across 11 affected provinces. At least 15.7 million people and 4 million buildings felt the impact. About 345,000 apartments were destroyed, while schools and hospitals were reduced to rubble. To this day, countless individuals and families find themselves in temporary shelters, enduring the hardships of life in tents and containers.

Battling Extreme Weather Without Proper Shelter:

For many, the earthquake compounded the struggles of displacement, exposing them to harsh weather conditions in inadequate shelter. Mariam*, a pregnant Syrian mother of three in Adıyaman, a province in southeastern Türkiye, recounted the difficulties of living in a tent through the cold winter and scorching summer. "We want to move out before winter comes," she says. "Our house was destroyed after the earthquake, so we had to move to this tent. We went through a terrible experience as it was raining and flooding the whole time."

Many parents are trying to adapt to their new reality, but the trauma extends to the children who are experiencing additional distress on top of existing hardships.

"My children were traumatised after the earthquake; they don't want to ever return to a house with walls," Mariam* adds. "They still have nightmares about it and talk about it all the time."

"I don't want to return to the house; the house breaks…" *Mariam's child

Mariam* was 4 months pregnant when the earthquake hit their neighbourhood in Türkiye. They were content and happy while living in a rented apartment. "The Turkish government has provided everything to us, including aid, water, education and a free health system," she says. "We thought our life was finally settling down, and we never expected to become displaced again!"

Mariam* had different plans for her family. They had fled their hometown Idleb in Syria to Türkiye many years ago after the destruction of their house during the war. "When the earthquake happened, we relived the experience, and it was worse than the war, especially now that we have children," she explains. "We are now displaced again, just after we thought our life was back."

The Turkish government plans to move people from tents to containers and eventually to permanent buildings. "At the beginning of the camp's construction, 16,000 people lived in this area (Adıyaman). Now the number has decreased to 5,000 after many have moved into containers or to the homes of relatives," says one of Adıyaman's governors. "Almost a thousand containers are being installed now. It is very challenging to solve the accommodation issue because the earthquake has affected 11 major cities in Türkiye," he adds.

Sitting in the sun's heat, 40-year-old Adel is helping many displaced families in the tented settlements in Adıyaman, Türkiye. "I used to be an electrician before the earthquake," he says. "I lost my job now, but I am providing electricity wiring for free to people affected by the earthquake."

This is not Adel's first displacement. After a protracted displacement from his hometown of Aleppo during the Syrian war, he fled to Türkiye - only to be displaced again after the earthquake. He now lives in a tented settlement providing free electrical wiring to those affected by the disaster.

With the generous support of Stichting Vluchteling (SV) and USAID & Concern Worldwide, we supported more than 4,000 households, including those of Mariam and Adel, by distributing essential hygiene kits and installing mobile latrines in tented settlements in Türkiye.

Rising from the Rubble:

The earthquake did not merely shatter buildings; it disrupted livelihoods, affecting around 700,000 people and 35,000 small and medium-sized businesses. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports the far-reaching consequences, increasing the number of unemployed workers and those who depend on them.

A marketplace is nestled around the earthquake's rubble in the heart of Adıyaman. Small and medium business owners seek resilience through the small grants PIN provides. These grants enable them to revive their businesses and regain some sense of normalcy.

PIN facilitated the growth of local businesses in Türkiye by providing small business grants to more than 1500 individuals, including Tunjay, Omer and Gibrael. Livelihood recovery projects were made possible through the generous support of Bobcat, Stichting Vluchteling (SV) SV, the Decathlon Solidarity Fund managed by the  King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) and The National Lottery. 

"In a matter of seconds, everything I had worked for was reduced to rubble"

Gibrael's butcher shop was meant to be a dream come true.

"It was the opening day of my shop when the earthquake happened. I lost everything," says Gibrael, a 33-year-old Turkish man who lives in Adıyaman.

Gibrael worked as a butcher for many years before deciding to run his own butchery. "It was my dream to run my own butchery. One day before the earthquake, I cleaned the shop and equipped it before the opening day," he says. When the earthquake happened, Gibrael's first instinct was to check on his family. His house has been mildly damaged, but they were fortunately safe. He made his way to the shop with heavy steps, fearing the worse. "The equipment, the cured meat, and the vision I had for years were nothing but fragments scattered across the floor. It was a sight that broke my heart," Gibrael explains. "I had finally achieved my dream, only to see it shattered instantly."

Gibrael had tasted success—even if brief—and knew he could do it again. With the love and support of his family, he found the strength to reopen his shop through the grant support of PIN. "My biggest worry was that I would have to return to work in other people's shops. I was lucky to get this grant to reopen my business," he adds.

As time passed, the shop started to take shape again, and customers who had once visited on the opening day returned. "I am starting slowly. As you can see, I don't have a lot of supplies. Hopefully, I will get a good reputation in this field in a few years," he concludes.

"I had to witness my shop being demolished; it was painful"

Tunjay, a 28-year-old Turkish owner of a barbershop, witnessed the collapse of his business after the earthquake. "I had this shop for 5 years, and I had 3 employees. Now I am starting from zero," Tunjay says.

After the earthquake and before applying for our grant, he had to work on moving furniture to gain money and support his family. He also worked as a mobile barber for his former customers.

"After applying for the business grant provided by PIN, I received 20,000 TRY that allowed me to buy what I could for barber supplies. I am missing some equipment, but at least I can work now," Tunjay explains. "I wish I could go back to my previous shop. I was known in my neighbourhood, and I had many customers."

Tunjay's old customers and friends are finding him again in his new shop. He opened his new shop in Adıyaman, and our support is helping him rebuild his business from scratch.

"I gazed in disbelief at the ruins that were once my cherished flower shop"

For eight long years, Omer's flower shop had been a beacon of hope and serenity for him. The 58-year-old Turkish man who once owned a flower shop and a beauty centre is the breadwinner for his wife and 5 children.

"Not only did I lose both of my shops after the earthquake, but my house was also damaged," Omer says. "I didn't know what to do; I lost everything."

Despite the setbacks, Omer was determined to rebuild and start over, so he started rebuilding his house and applied for the business grant we provide. Two months after the earthquake, he opened a similar shop with his son's help in the marketplace we support in Adıyaman.

Opening a flower shop wasn't just a business decision for Omer; it was an act of passion and a source of joy. "I have worked in a flower shop since I was little and liked it a lot. I am lucky I was able to open my own shop."

"It is still an early stage for me. I am trying to promote my shop and track my old customers," Omer concludes.

Since the devastating earthquake shook Türkiye on 6 February 2023, we have supported over 200,000 individuals in Türkiye and northwest Syria with shelter, cash assistance, water, sanitation and hygiene interventions, psychosocial support, winterisation support, and food security support, 

*Name has been changed for protection reasons

Autor: Zaynab Mayladan/PIN, Regional Communications and Advocacy Manager for the Middle East, People in Need

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