One year since the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Türkiye and northern Syria, affected communities continue to grapple with profound trauma and destruction brought about by the disaster. In Syria alone, where 13,000 lives were lost and hundreds of thousands displaced, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) now warns of soaring humanitarian needs amid a landscape already shattered by protracted conflict. 

Even before the February 2023 earthquake, the humanitarian situation in Syria was catastrophic following more than a decade of protracted conflict that had left millions displaced both within and outside the country. The earthquake last year added immense pressure on both the humanitarian response and the already fragile systems in northwest Syria, which are operating at a fraction of their original capacity after 13 years of the crisis.  

As the Syrian conflict approaches its fourteenth year, those in need of assistance has risen to 16.7 million people—an increase of 9% from the previous year. Today, 90% of Syrians are living below the poverty line and are facing unsustainable increases in the cost of basic goods – meaning many are struggling to feed their families or having to make tough decisions about paying for food versus other critical needs such as rent or healthcare. A recent needs assessment by the IRC showed that 84% of surveyed households in northwest Syria are living in debt, which threatens their continued access to basic goods and may push them into negative coping mechanisms like fewer meals, child labor, or even early marriage.   

Despite needs rising, and the renewed attention brought about by the earthquake last year, humanitarian funding remains critically insufficient. In 2023, the Syria Humanitarian Response Plan reported a 62% funding shortfall, and the situation is anticipated to worsen with further aid reductions expected throughout 2024. 

One year since the earthquake, the scars run deep in the communities affected in Syria and Türkiye. With many still mourning the loss of loved ones and the destruction of their homes. There are still millions continuing to experience displacement across the region, unable to work, and desperately seeking a return to ‘normalcy’ after the earthquake’s destruction. Today, the IRC’s response continues to provide urgent relief to earthquake-impacted communities and support for recovery and resilience, including livelihoods trainings and psychosocial support activities. 

Abeer is a 30-year-old mother of three who was already displaced in northern Syria. She is now living in a tent after her home was destroyed in the earthquake. She said, 

“Our life before the earthquake was quite different than now. We were living in a house, which got destroyed. We came here to live in a tent, as you can see. Since the earthquake, our life has changed and became much worse. My husband was working [before the earthquake]. Now, he is jobless. If I find a job for a few hours, I go to work and leave my kids with my husband, so we can buy them food and diapers.” 

Within the first few days of the Earthquake response, the IRC distributed $50,000 each in flexible funding to 10 partners, with additional funding to three more partners shortly thereafter. The rapid provision of cash assistance and the initiation of three mobile medical clinics in the first few days of the response were critical in supporting recovery efforts for those affected. By the end of 2023, the IRC’s Earthquake response in coordination with local partners reached more than 195,000 people with cash assistance and 1,125,000 with health care assistance. 

Tanya Evans, the IRC’s Country Director in Syria, said, 

IRC’s financial support to partners already on the ground enabled them to make rapid and strategic decisions about their response; using the funding for emergency supplies, staff safety, and other critical needs based on their extensive knowledge of the local contexts and commitments towards taking care of team members. Partnership is a cornerstone of IRC’s programming in Syria and Türkiye. It is vital that Syrian voices are directing conversations around needs, recovery, and response programming. 

“As we remember the thousands who lost their lives one year ago, we are urging the international community not to forget about Syria. The crisis in Syria is about to enter its 14th year. We need renewed engagement on Syria by all stakeholders to find both a political solution to the crisis, and commitment to long-term and sufficient funding to support the millions now reliant on humanitarian assistance to survive.” 

The IRC has been working in Syria since 2012, responding to needs in northwest and northeast Syria. The IRC and our partners continue to work to address ongoing needs in earthquake-impacted communities, including primary health care services, mental health and psychosocial support, integrated protection, and economic recovery and resilience activities such as cash assistance and livelihood trainings. To learn more about our earthquake response, please see here.

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