On 6 February, two powerful earthquakes struck southeast Türkiye and northern Syria. To date, more than 21,000 people have lost their lives in this disaster. Hundreds of thousands of people are in need of immediate emergency assistance to meet their most basic needs as the winter cold continues. Many of them are refugees or internally displaced from the conflict in Syria, and were already severely affected by the crisis before the earthquake.
UNHCR responds to the urgent needs of the affected population
Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes in the earthquakes, leaving them with nowhere to sleep. Entire families are now without shelter or food at a time of year when temperatures regularly reach negative degrees.
It is against this backdrop that UNHCR is providing support to the refugees in Türkiye, as well as to the local population affected by the disaster.
The situation is tragic,
said Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Türkiye. "At the moment, UNHCR is providing, in collaboration with other UN agencies, what is requested by the Turkish authorities, which is mainly kitchen kits, mattresses, tents, to complement the efforts of the Turkish authorities to assist both Turkish citizens and refugees.
In Syria, where UNHCR has been working tirelessly since the conflict began 12 years ago, it is redoubling its efforts to help people who have lost their homes. Many of them were internally displaced and lost what little they had in the earthquake.
Areas already under high pressure
Long before the earthquakes, displaced populations in both Türkiye and Syria were already facing enormous challenges.
More than 3 million refugees now reside in Türkiye, most of them from Syria and Iraq. This is equivalent to almost one in 26 people of the country's total population. In recent years, UNHCR has continued to provide support to displaced people on various fronts.
As a result of the civil war in Syria, more than 6.7 million people are still internally displaced. Many of these are in the Idlib region, which was badly hit by the earthquake and relies heavily on humanitarian aid to survive, a situation that has been further intensified by the seism.
Cruelly underfunded situations
In 2022, only 38% of the funding needed to meet the needs of those forced to flee in Syria was raised, as the country is severely underfunded in terms of essential needs. In addition, some neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon also have huge needs to provide the necessary support to Syrian refugees.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has spoken out about the need to help the victims of the earthquake and to show solidarity:
During my tenure as High Commissioner for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, I went several times to work in that area, and I will never forget the extraordinary demonstration of generosity of the people. Let us work together in solidarity to assist all those hit by this disaster, many of whom were already in dire need of humanitarian aid.