One Year Since Deadly Earthquake, 4.5 Million People in Northwest Syria Are Left Picking up the Pieces

February 01, 2024

One year after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Northwest Syria and Turkey, 800,000 people are sheltering in tents in Northwest Syria and hunger has worsened as rising food prices paired with decreased incomes make it increasingly challenging to meet basic needs.

Despite international attention in the weeks that followed the earthquake, international funding and supplies were slow to materialize in Northwest Syria, where there has been limited rebuilding of the estimated 10,600 buildings destroyed by the earthquake and aftershocks. Recovery efforts have been hampered by increased hostilities in a 12-year-long conflict and near economic collapse. 

One community member in Northwest Syria described the life-changing impacts of the earthquake: “After the earthquake, everything changed for the worse, with skyrocketing prices and insufficient support for affected communities. We had to change the way we lived since we lost everything.”

Despite growing needs, there were new food aid cuts in January due to an unprecedented budget shortfall, depriving 1 million people of a lifeline. The decreased food aid alongside the anticipated depletion of much of the short-term funding generated by the earthquake will further strain an already dire humanitarian situation in the year ahead.

Mercy Corps’ Country Director for Syria, Nicole Hark, said: 

“In less than one year, communities in Northwest Syria have faced an onslaught of crises—from the worst earthquake in a century to significant escalations of hostilities, multiple displacements, economic turmoil and a surge in the prices of essential goods. Now 4.5 million people in Northwest Syria are experiencing another cold season and working against all odds for some semblance of recovery.

“Before the earthquake, 4.1 million people were already relying on international aid and 2.9 million people were uprooted from their homes. When disaster struck last February, any resilience they had built came crumbling down with the earthquake. Many families lacked the means to remove debris or rebuild and were forced to live in tents that are unable to withstand the harsh weather conditions in areas without sufficient access to water for cleaning or drinking or other critical services. What was meant to be a temporary solution has become seemingly permanent. 

“Multiple generations have been impacted by this devastating combination of man-made and natural disasters. Many families have lost income sources—whether from the devastation of physical infrastructures and lack of new supplies or the economic crisis. In some areas, daily income is estimated at approximately .50 to .70 cents per day, which is barely enough to survive. Community members report being unable to provide education for their children, medicine or treatments for their elderly parents, and even the necessities for survival, including food. In 2024, food security is expected to continue declining in Northwest Syria by as much as 29 percent among displaced people in camps and informal sites.

“People in Northwest Syria have made great strides to restore their communities, but without adequate international funding to help Syrians who have been left behind, I fear that progress will erode, pushing the country into an unmanageable disaster and creating fertile ground for further conflict, extremism, and dangerous attempts at migration.”

Mercy Corps has been working in Syria since 2008, delivering emergency assistance and addressing longer-term needs. In the Northwest, we have provided essential support including water, food, shelter, sanitation services, and livelihoods assistance to Syrians displaced multiple times throughout the decade-long conflict. Beyond the provision of non-food items, food baskets, water and other lifesaving aid in the early days following the earthquake, Mercy Corps launched several activities to support resilience-building including rehabilitation of shelters, water networks, bakeries, schools and hospitals as well as training and provision of cash grants to entrepreneurs. One year since the earthquake, Mercy Corps has reached more than 300,000 people with critical aid in the aftermath and recovery from the crisis."


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