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Türkiye - Syria earthquake

Türkiye - Syria earthquake

Devastating earthquakes

On 6 February 2023, two massive magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes struck southcentral Türkiye and northwest of neighboring Syria.

Just two weeks after the first earthquakes, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck southern Türkiye on 20 February, and yet another with a 5.6 magnitude on the 27, adding to the death toll and the trauma of the survivors.

One month after the quake, the search and rescue and the acute emergency phase is over. However, while the dust has settled, among the rubble, the needs remain acute. 

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continue with the ongoing medical and other assistance to the huge numbers of people affected by the earthquakes, either directly or via partner organisations.

On 6 February 2023, between 4:17 and 4:30 a.m. local time magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 earthquakes struck southeast Türkiye and northwest of neighboring Syria. The initial earthquake which was centered near Gaziantep in south central Türkiye was the deadliest earthquake to hit the region in twenty years and has killed nearly 49,000 people, injured thousands and left millions homeless as of 23 February. 

Just two weeks after the first earthquakes caused such a tragic loss of life, another 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck Hatay province in southern Türkiye  on 20 February, adding up to the death toll and exacerbating psychological impact following the first quake. Buildings that were almost already destroyed have collapsed.

One month on, the acute emergency phase is over, however, people still urgently need relief support. 

The current situation

As of 4 March 2023 according to the Türkiye’s Ministry of Interior Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, AFAD and UNOCHA, the earthquakes have left more than 51,000 people dead, and more than 120, 000 have been injured and millions left homeless.

  • In Türkiye, 3 million people have been forced to leave their homes, of which more than 1.5 million are living now in tent towns. 
  • In Syria, the 180,000 people that have been displaced by the earthquake adds to the 2,8 million people already living in difficult and precarious circumstances after being repeatedly displaced during 12 years of war. 

Impact in Syria

The earthquakes wrought major devastation. Buildings are destroyed, infrastructures are damaged, and necessities such as fuel and electricity are not available. 

55 medical facilities have been damaged and several completely destroyed, hindering their capacity to respond. Two MSF-supported maternity centers were evacuated, due to the risk of the buildings collapsing. Our medical staff and the staff of other facilities have worked hard to treat patients since the first earthquake. 

There was major destruction in large buildings in urban centers. In northwest Syria, the number of destroyed buildings is 1,764 and the number of partially destroyed buildings is 5,771.

The disaster compounded an already desperate humanitarian situation. The 180,000 people that have been displaced by the earthquake adds to the two million people already living in difficult and precarious circumstances after being repeatedly displaced during 12 years of warThe displaced are left with no shelter, food, water or any form of access to necessities of livelihood. 

Humanitarian aid needs

The humanitarian aid coming into northwest Syria has been extremely limited and too slow over the first two weeks safter the earthquake. There has been strictly no Search and Rescue materials or teams entering birthwest Syria to support the essential first days effort to search for survivals.

There is an enormous unmet need for shelter, drinking water, washing facilities and heating equipment. On top of that, humanitarian aid provided to the region (northwest Syria) through the cross-border mechanism has not even matched the pre-earthquakes average volume yet. 

International aid must be urgently scaled up in order to preserve the lives and dignity of people living in affected areas and match the scale of the humanitarian crisis.

As of 17 February, a total of 178 trucks loaded with aid provided by six UN agencies had crossed into northwest Syria through Bab Al-Hawa and Bab Al-Salama. In 2022, 7,566 trucks loaded with aid crossed from Türkiye into northwest Syria, which represents an average of 227 trucks for the same period of 11 days.

Bab Al-Hawa is the main UN supported humanitarian crossing between Türkiye and northwest Syria, from which essential life-saving medical supplies can enter northwest Syria. On February 13, two additional humanitarian crossing points of Bab Al-Salam and Al Ra’ee from Türkiye to northwest Syria were announced open for an initial period of three months.

In addition to these 3 crossing points, there are other commercial crossing points that are not related to UN border crossing resolution access points. An MSF convoy of 14 trucks crossed to northwest Syria on February 19th, with the facilitation of Al Ameen NGO.


The situation prior to the earthquake

Northwest Syria

Supporting healthcare provision In Idlib and Aleppo governorates

MSF supported 32 hospitals and health facilities, through donations of emergency kits, trauma kits medical supplies, and blankets. This includes facilities in Idlib, Azaz, Afrin, Mare’, Bab El Hawa, among other towns. We also sent medical staff, including surgeons, to support hospitals dealing with the influx of wounded.  

In 4 health facilities (hospitals and clinics) in Idlib governorate, we treated injured patients, and we increased the capacity of the hospitals we’re working in by adding triage tents in the outside wards.

In addition, we deployed our ambulances and we’re supporting 90 ambulances to facilitate the transfer of patients in need of emergency assistance to the closest health facilities. 

Two weeks after we have scaled up efforts deploying mobile clinics and distributing relief items to affected populations.

 Mobile clinics

We set up mobile clinics that were deployed in three reception centers, and eleven different camps in northwest Syria. The aim is to offer essential medical services to people affected by the earthquakes.

Mental health services

Our teams launched a mental health hotline that is accessible to people, that is being communicated in the community through our health promoters and mental health specialists. 

Offering relief support to affected families

In Aleppo governorate, with our local partners, we distributed food and blankets to more than 500 families in the reception centers in Afrin.

Similarly, we distributed more than 800 kits, including hygiene items, kitchen kits, winter kits and blankets, to affected people in Jindires, one of the most affected cities, and families in reception centers in Azaz and Mare’ and surrounding villages. 

A total of 19,594 blankets have been distributed in northwest Syria. 

Offering immediate relief support to people affected by the earthquakes, particularly those without shelter in this cold weather, will remain a priority for our team. We will continue to assess the needs and adapt our response accordingly. 

MSF aid into northwest Syria: 

In an effort to continue our support. 

On Sunday, February 26th 2023, MSF has brought in a convoy of 15 trucks including 1234 tents and  winter kits to be distributed in the following days. 

In addition, 24 tons of medical items have been imported in preparation for scaling up of activities. 

Northeast Syria

There has been no major damage or injuries reported at or near our projects in Northeast Syria. However, the team is actively investigating opportunities to provide support to earthquake affected areas elsewhere in Syria. 

MSF Operations in Syria Prior to the Earthquake

In northwest Syria, MSF is supporting 7 hospitals including 1 burn unit, in addition to 12 Primary Health Care centres (PHCs) and 3 ambulances for referrals. In addition, MSF supports 11 mobile clinics serving Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps. MSF is also running Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) activities in close to 100 IDP camps across the northwest.  

In northeast Syria, we run a primary healthcare clinic, NCDs programs, mobile wound care, and a reverse osmosis plant to provide safe drinking water in Al-Hol camp. MSF also supports a hospital, as well as an outpatient department (OPD), ER, and nutrition programming, and currently have a team engaged in a short-term influenza B intervention in response to high child mortality.

In addition, since the announcement of the Cholera outbreak, MSF has been responding by conducting community-based health promotion activities as well as training for relevant healthcare workers. We’re also supporting cholera treatment units, and oral rehydration points in the affected areas in Northwest, and Northeast Syria. Today these activities are on standby as no patients or severe cases have presented themselves to our supported facilities. However, we continue to monitor the evolution of the situation and ready to respond if any developments are to occur. 

Our Response in Syria

MSF has been present in northwest and northeast Syria for many years, making a swift response possible in the most affected areas, mainly in NWS, while NES was much less affected. 

MSF teams are adapting their response in Syria to offer immediate relief and medical support. The pillars of the first few days of the response are supporting medical facilities to treat patients with material and HR support, facilitating transport of patients by supporting ambulances, and providing immediate relief items to people affected.

Today, MSF has scaled its efforts deploying mobile clinics, distributing relief items, implementing water and sanitation and logistics activities, and offering psychological first aid.


Syria remains the country with the biggest population of internally displaced people in the world. Since the beginning of the conflict, 13.6 million Syrians have been displaced inside and outside the country. Some 6.6 million refugees are scattered throughout the world. The other 6.9 million are internally displaced (IDPs), most of whom have been displaced repeatedly, and live in precarious conditions inside Syria. Today, 15.3 million people in Syria need humanitarian and protection assistance.  

In northwest Syria, home to 4.4 million people, 2.8 million, 80 percent of whom are women and children, remain internally displaced and continue to live in precarious conditions. 4.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. 

Access of aid

Prior to the earthquake, 2.4 million people benefit monthly from the cross-border aid that comes through Bab Al-Hawa, the only remaining crossing point into Syria creating a risk of bottleneck in an emergency context such as the current one. 

Cholera outbreak

In September 2022, a cholera outbreak has been declared in Syria, including in the north of the country, where MSF works.

This outbreak has been linked to people drinking contaminated water from the Euphrates River in northeast Syria. It was further exacerbated by the acute water shortage and weak water and sanitation infrastructure severely affected by years of armed conflict and the decreasing humanitarian funding. However, currently all MSF activities in that regard has been put on standby as no patients have presented themselves to our facilities and cases who did suffer from mild symptoms.

There is no proper testing set in place so accurate information on cases is not available. Suspected cases are identified based on severe dehydration and acute diarrhoea which could resemble various medical conditions. We keep on monitoring the situation and ready to relaunch activities depending on the evolution of the situation. 

Impact on Türkiye

The earthquakes have affected a large area of the country: eleven provinces hosting around 14 million people, in a country with a population of about 84 million. In those provinces the state of emergency has been declared for three months.

National Search and Rescue (SAR) teams are concluding activities in towns like Malatya, Adiyaman and Gaziantep, as well as in other quake-affected areas. Bulldozers are already removing tons of rubble. 

Across the most affected cities, thousands of buildings have been damaged: 90, 609 buildings are either collapsed, about to collapse, or are heavily damaged. 18,200 of them are classified as to be in ruins, according to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.

Many of the standing buildings have cracks and other issues, people are very afraid of going back to their homes because there are still aftershocks from time to time. 

Informal camps for displaced people have sprung up in open spaces – in stadiums, squares, in the middle of streets.  People are sleeping in their cars to protect themselves from the cold. Temperatures can reach up to 20 degrees below zero at night in some areas.

Other people have chosen to go to rural areas around the cities.  The destruction there has been less, but with displaced people arriving from other places, they also need humanitarian aid. In the villages and small towns, it is common to see 20 or 30 people living in houses of just a few rooms.

Our response in Türkiye

All MSF relief activities in Türkiye are carried out in collaboration with local partners.

MSF is not registered in Turkiye so this is the model we have to use to help people affected. Although this limits our capacity we want to keep the focus on the people and not ourselves, please bear in mind that our activities in Turkiye are not huge given the scale of this disaster.

Donation of essential relief items and medical supplies, WASH and food


MSF teams donated generators for energy, as well as more than 7,000 hygiene kits and relief items, such as blankets, sleeping bags, power banks, electrical stoves, diapers and winter undergarments i We have also donated more than 20,000 liters of water, a vehicle for transporting medicine and fuel for mobile clinics.


We have donated 250 hygiene kits and 400 thermal undergarments for first responders (healthcare workers and search and rescue teams) , as well as donated food in various villages in the outskirts of Elbistan. 


MSF donated 3,000 hygiene kits to the Turkish Red Crescent.

Islahiye discrit 

MSF teams donated medical and non-medical items to Islahiye hospital and camp for displaced people, as well as hygiene kits to the Turkish Red Crescent. 


We have donated more than 3,000 relief items, tents and 14,000 hygiene kits, as well as provided food and water for hospitals. MSF teams have also donated more than 8,000 food items including bread and food kits, as well as improved water and sanitation in the town and makeshift camps for displaced people, such as by installing more than 60 showers in camps and three water points in parks. 

In addition, MSF supported a partner organisation in conducting mobile clinics focusing on mother and childcare (prenatal care, neonatal care, infant and childcare), as well as made a medical donation of scabies treatment.


MSF supported the distribution of 180,000 hot meals to 6,000 people in four camps in Kilis, with IBC and Turkish Red Crescent (who is not a direct partner but coordinating through IBC).

Nurdağı District 

MSF assessed WASH needs in rural areas of the Nurdağı district.

Kahramanmaras, Pazarcik and Kayseri

MSF teams donated relief items, such as sleeping bags, winter clothes for babies, personal care items, as well as hygiene kits. Our teams also provided fresh fruits and vegetables to organisations offering meals to displaced people.


MSF donated 500 hygiene kits and 150 packs of adult diapers for people in informal camps and villages in hard-to-reach areas.

Mental health support

Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Pazarcik and Kayseri

MSF has provided mental health and psychosocial support for people affected by the earthquake, including volunteers and search and rescue teams engaged in the response through individual and group work, as well as by donating pedagogical material for psycho-social workshops.

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As an independent, impartial medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières can respond rapidly to emergency situations and deliver urgent medical treatment to people in need – no matter who they are.
By making a donation, you can help ensure that we can be there to provide medical assistance during times of crisis like the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria.