“The situation is tragic. Right now, UNHCR is providing, with other UN agencies, what the Turkish authorities are requesting, so basically kitchen sets, mattresses, tents, so that we can complement the leading efforts of the Turkish authorities to rescue Turkish citizens and refugees in the same manner.”
Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Representative in Türkiye
What is happening in Türkiye and Syria?
On 6 February 2023, two powerful earthquakes of 7.7 and 7.5 magnitudes struck in south-eastern Türkiye in the province of Kahramanmaras. The earthquakes have claimed thousands of lives and caused untold destruction to homes and infrastructure across the region.
In Türkiye, the earthquakes impacted a region of 15 million people living in 10 provinces, of whom 1.7 million are Syrian refugees under Temporary Protection. Those caught up in the disaster include many thousands of refugees from Syria and the communities that have generously hosted them for nearly 12 years.
Among those affected in north-western Syria are families that were already displaced from their homes by the country’s long-running crisis, living in tents, flimsy shelters and partially destroyed buildings. The earthquakes come amid harsh winter weather, which is also impacting those affected.
Across the whole region, homes and public infrastructure have been severely damaged, and roads and telecommunications networks are affected. The needs are immense. Those affected require urgent support.
What is UNHCR doing to help people affected by the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria?
UNHCR already has a strong presence on the ground in Türkiye and Syria, providing support with our partners to people forced to flee their homes and their host communities. Having worked in the region to help displaced people throughout the long Syrian crisis, UNHCR has the local knowledge and supply chains in place to reach the most vulnerable quickly and effectively.
In Türkiye, the provinces heavily affected by the earthquakes are also ones in which refugees live in large numbers. UNHCR is working under the leadership of the Turkish authorities and with other UN agencies and is responding with urgently requested support to both refugees and host communities, including blankets, food packs, kitchen sets, mattresses and tents. Airlifts are bringing in more desperately needed supplies.
In Syria, families displaced inside the country were already struggling to protect their families in one of the worst winter storms to hit the region in recent years. Many families were living in flimsy shelters and damaged buildings—many of which have now been destroyed or weakened by the earthquake and are not safe anymore.
UNHCR is coordinating the response with other UN agencies and humanitarian partners in Syria (including northwest Syria) and is delivering assistance to those in need wherever possible. We have made core relief items in affected regions immediately available to partners for delivery. We have deployed tens of thousands more core relief items, including high-thermal blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and sleeping mats. We are taking part in cross-border convoys bringing more desperately needed aid into NW Syria.
Where can I find more information on people forced to flee in Türkiye and Syria?
UNHCR has been working in close cooperation with Türkiye on asylum and refugee issues since 1960. Türkiye and UNHCR signed a Host Country Agreement in 2016, which formalises and strengthens this existing collaboration. In Türkiye, UNHCR leads and coordinates the efforts of UN agencies in support of Türkiye’s response to the Syria refugee crisis and support for host communities. More information about UNHCR’s work in Türkiye can be found here.
UNHCR has been working in Syria since 1991 and has since expanded its work to support refugees and internally displaced people across the country. More than 6.7 million people are internally displaced within the country, and more than 5.4 million Syrian refugees are registered in neighbouring countries. More information about UNHCR’s work in Syria can be found here.