One year after the earthquake in Türkiye ans Syria

One year has already passed since the catastrophic emergency that struck Türkiye and Syria last February, literally shattered by multiple earthquakes that affected 14 million people and caused over 50,000 casualties and more than 100,000 injuries.

The stories of those who lived through this tragedy remind us of the fragility of life, but also how crucial the power of solidarity is to rebuild shattered lives. In order not to forget, we report some of the testimonies, collected after the earthquake, of those who managed to survive the catastrophe, but who at the same time lost everything and had to come to terms with their uncertain future.

“I heard a strange sound, I didn’t know where it was coming from. It was terrifying. Suddenly, the house started shaking violently. Then I heard the walls crumble as I shouted, ‘Wake up, Khalid, please bring the children here!’ I felt a sense of panic I had never felt before. My feet could no longer move. Then nothing, as if I had lost my mind or my senses. My husband and children did not make it”. Salwa.

“Due to excessive fear, psychological pressure and overwhelming thoughts, I suffer from sleep disorders… Really, I can’t sleep. Morning comes and I am wide awake. Please, I just want to sleep again. I want to dream. I miss our once safe life’. Hanan.

“What happened today is beyond words to describe its immense horror. I thought it was the Day of Judgement, a day that had come to cut the thread of life’s goodness. The thread we had clung to, without sufficient mechanism to lift the rubble. Our only hands were digging into the concrete, into the sand to lift the rubble from above our heads”. Amira.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, we at CESVI acted swiftly together with local partners to support the surviving population, brought to their knees by an unimaginable tragedy.

Over the past year, we have assisted more than 466,000 people through rehabilitation of water infrastructure damaged by the earthquake, particularly in North-West Syria; and psychosocial support activities, both in Syria and Türkiye (in the areas of Kahramanmaraş, Adıyaman, and Hatay), for adults and children affected by the trauma of the earthquake. For the youngest children, in particular, we have created Child Friendly Spaces: safe places designed for their needs where they can enjoy recreational and educational activities and spend time with their peers, as well as psychological support. With these activities we have supported over 5,800 children.

Our interventions continue today in Syria, a country ravaged by 12 years of internal conflict where more than 4 million people are in need of continuous humanitarian assistance. The earthquake of 6 February 2023 complicated the situation in an already problematic area, further compromising the living conditions of the population and once again undermining the psychological and physical well-being of the children.

In the North-West alone, more than one million school-age children are at risk of dropping out, with 25,000 teachers affected and in need of psychosocial and economic support. Access to education is extremely difficult, with precarious conditions for students and teachers without fixed salaries. This is why we are concentrating our efforts, in cooperation with Alliance2015 partner Acted, to support precisely these two groups, teachers and students.

In particular, we are also rehabilitating school facilities by providing furniture and equipment in 4 public schools. The work includes repairing damage, painting, fixing fixtures, doors, toilets, lighting. We are also directly supporting public education staff with payment of salaries, in the areas of North-West Syria where they have been interrupted, and distributing school kits to students and teachers. This amounts to 2,100 kits of educational and recreational material. In parallel, psychosocial support interventions are also strongly needed to support the mental health of young people in schools: a team of experts will provide children aged between 6 and 14 years with access to a series of recreational activities structured through play and movement, and art, over the coming months. Finally, we will support the entire community through activities to raise awareness on issues of social protection and inclusion. Parent-Teacher Associations will be established to bring the two parties together to build effective cooperation and dialogue and thus support the psycho-physical balance of minors, creating a safe and aware environment.

In this dramatic historical moment when many countries in the world are harassed by wars, conflicts, and climate catastrophes, we at CESVI continue to work to protect the most vulnerable in the contexts affected by the most serious humanitarian emergencies.