"What I saw shocked me"
Cologne. A year after the devastating earthquake in the border region between Syria and Türkiye, more than three million people remain displaced, living in makeshift shelters or tents. In northwestern Syria, the absence of state structures to coordinate reconstruction efforts has left a void, hindering the rebuilding process. The situation is further compounded by dwindling international funding, which has reduced UN aid, exacerbating food shortages and deepening the humanitarian crisis.
Lena Schellhammer, Malteser International’s Program Manager for Syria and Türkiye recently visited the earthquake-affected areas and describes the situation. " In the Syrian city of Afrin, it's almost as if the earthquake happened yesterday. What I saw shocked me: damaged houses still stand uninhabitable on the streets, next to the tents and containers for those who have lost their homes. People sought refuge in this region believing they could escape the war, but the earthquake stripped them of even the little they had left."
Malteser International's partner organizations, including the Al-Dana maternity clinic run by local organization SAMS, are witnessing a surge in parents seeking assistance for their malnourished children. "This deeply concerns us," Schellhammer emphasizes, "and we are now expanding our support to include initiatives that help communities cultivate fruits and vegetables, enabling them to achieve food self-sufficiency and generate income."
Malteser International has been actively supporting the people of northwest Syria since shortly after the outbreak of war in 2011, particularly in the realm of medical care. Following the earthquake on February 6, 2023, the organization significantly expanded its humanitarian assistance. Partnering with local organizations, Malteser International is providing support to eight hospitals, basic health centers, and mobile medical teams. Additionally, they are ensuring access to clean drinking water and providing psychosocial support to those affected by the earthquake.
In the Turkish earthquake region, Malteser International, through local partner organizations, has distributed blankets, tents, and beds. To date, individuals injured in the earthquake continue to receive physiotherapy care. Moreover, starting in February, small entrepreneurs impacted by the earthquake will receive support on their way back to self-employment.
Lena Schellhammer, Malteser International's Program Manager for Syria and Türkiye, is available for interviews and sound bites.
Contact: +49 (0)221 9822- 7181, firstname.lastname@example.org