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Communities in Türkiye and Syria recovering from 2023 earthquake

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Oxfam staff in Hatay province, Türkiye, discuss the distribution of hygiene kits and other aid to displaced people. Delizia Flaccavento/Oxfam

Oxfam has reached 2 million people with humanitarian aid, and rebuilding efforts continue in 2024.

When a massive earthquake hit southern Türkiye and northern Syria in early February 2023, it affected people in Syria already suffering through more than a decade of conflict.

The earthquake literally jolted them into an even worse situation, according to Oxfam staff in the area. “People do not have a roof over their heads and are stuck in freezing temperatures with no idea where they could get their next meal,” said Abdelkader Dabbagh, Oxfam’s manager in the Aleppo governorate in northern Syria.

Oxfam provided Khadija and her family in Aleppo, Syria, hygiene kits that included soap for washing their clothes. Islam Mardini/ Oxfam

One of them was Khadija, a married mother of five children whose home was partly destroyed. Her family struggled to get clean water, keep warm, find enough food, and meet their basic hygiene needs. Oxfam provided them with hygiene kits consisting of soap, shampoo, menstrual pads, and a bucket. Oxfam also provided dignity kits with women’s underwear, headscarves, socks, solar lamps, and other items to help women and girls maintain their dignity, hygiene, and safety.

“We were in the dark almost every night, but the solar lamp we received gave us some light,” Kadija said. “It was my favorite item.”

Massive damage from earthquake, aftershocks

The earthquake that hit Kadija and her family in Syria on February 6 last year also affected a large area of southern Türkiye and was quite powerful: 7.8 magnitude. Over the coming hours and days, numerous aftershocks continued as the death toll mounted. Nearly 56,000 people were killed, and roughly 10 million were left in urgent need of assistance.

Oxfam staff check repair work on municipal drinking water system pipes in the Al-Ashrafieh neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria. Repairs to water systems will reduce the risk of water-borne disease epidemics in areas affected by earthquakes. Islam Mardini/Oxfam

In the year following the earthquakes, with your support Oxfam KEDV in Türkiye and Oxfam in Syria and our partners helped more than 2 million people with immediate aid to save lives: clean water, sanitation systems, food, information, and other support to keep people safe from diseases and violence. The next phase of work, still going on, involves long-term support for livelihoods and reconstruction.

In Türkiye, Oxfam KEDV and our partners reached 192,170 people. In Syria, Oxfam supported more than 1.8 million individuals across four governorates. In both countries, we worked closely with locally based humanitarian organizations. In Syria, our partner is the Syrian Society for Social Development. Our partners in Türkiye are Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants (ASAM), International Blue Crescent, and Fikir ve Sanat Atölyesi Dernegi.

Here’s how many people we reached over the last year, and what ongoing work looks like in 2024

Water, sanitation, and hygiene

Türkiye: Oxfam helped repair municipal water systems that serve more than 80,000 people, and rehabilitated a 3,200 cubic meter water tank in the Kahramanmaraş Temporary Accommodation Center, serving 28,000 people. Oxfam installed 1,285 toilets, 731 showers, and 221 toilets optimized for people living with disabilities. We also distributed 9,311 hygiene kits, 2,504 hygiene cash vouchers (to help people buy hygiene items), 684 baby kits, 1,169 elderly kits, and 15,641 menstrual and dignity kits or cash vouchers.

Syria: Oxfam provided safe water by truck to more than 1 million people in shelters. We cleaned water tanks which served more than 24,000 people, and installed communal water tanks (filled daily) that served nearly 39,000 people. We made sure the latrines were clean and safe to use, assigning equipment and 30 trained latrine attendants in shelters to supervise cleaning. This assistance reached 94,124 people. Oxfam helped repair and improve water and sanitation systems serving 2.4 million people. Oxfam trained 63 hygiene promoters who reached 98,366 people, and we distributed essential hygiene items to 326,730 people.

A hygiene promoter explains to residents in a shelter for displaced people in the Salah Al-Deen neighborhood in Aleppo, Syria, how to use anti-lice shampoo she is distributing. Islam Mardini/Oxfam

Food and livelihoods

Türkiye: We provided vouchers to 400 households who lost their livelihoods to cover their food and non-food needs. We also registered 440 of the most vulnerable households for cash support and we provided 299 farming families with animal feed and distributed 982 seedlings to farmers.

Syria: Oxfam provided cash assistance to 21,341 people in Aleppo, enabling them to purchase food or to restart businesses. Oxfam repaired and upgraded two bakeries to ensure they could make enough bread for 95,000 people. Repairs at another five bakeries are in process. We also supplied dry yeast to bakeries in Aleppo.

Safety and protection

Türkiye: Oxfam is working with local government authorities, UN agencies, and the private sector to create and manage nine Women and Children’s Centers (six are established, three more will start in 2024) and three Women's Solidarity Centers that provide psycho-social support and referral services, preschool education and care services for children, and workshops on income-generating activities for women. These programs reached 1,953 people from households displaced by the earthquake, single-parent households, households with pregnant or lactating women, family members living with disabilities, and Syrian refugees.

In Türkiye, Cemile Kahraman is living with multiple sclerosis, and works at the Kahramanmaraş Women's Solidarity Center sewing handicrafts. “We continue to learn with the help of resourceful women and experts. There is even talk of starting our own business and becoming a cooperative. I feel better and stronger here.” Defne Ünal /Oxfam

Syria: Oxfam provided individual protection assistance to 90 people living with physical or mental disabilities and survivors of gender-based violence. We facilitated the delivery of 17,927 dignity kits to women and girls. Our team worked with 480 adolescent girls in 12 schools in Aleppo, Lattakia, and Hama, discussing topics around menstrual hygiene and gender equality. To improve safety and help people survive cold weather, we provided 494 blankets, 10,021 winter kits and solar lights to people in rural Aleppo and Idlib to keep them safe, warm and comfortable, and to ease the financial stress of buying winter clothes.

A man in Aleppo, Syria, puts a sweater on his son. Oxfam distributed blankets and warm clothes to displaced families to help them survive cold winter temperatures. Islam Mardini/Oxfam

Recovery and reconstruction in 2024

A year after the earthquake, people in Syria and Türkiye are still suffering. At Oxfam, we have shifted from providing lifesaving aid to a longer-term recovery plan that seeks to improve and restore lives in affected communities. Here’s what that looks like:

Türkiye: Our work to improve water systems and distribute hygiene kits will continue in 2024. We will provide cash and material support to women’s cooperatives and women entrepreneurs and farmers in Türkiye’s rural areas. We continue to distribute winter clothes and will help ensure refugee- and women-led organizations have a voice in decisions about the ongoing reconstruction process in earthquake-affected areas.

Syria: Our team will support people with the assistance they need to survive these difficult times and restore their dignity after a year of hardship and trauma, on top of the ongoing conflict that has destroyed much of the infrastructure in their country.

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