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Six months after the earthquake in Syria and Türkiye

Malteser International intensifies relief efforts in affected regions

Distribution of relief supplies to affected people. ©HIHFAD/Malteser International

Patients are treated in a mobile clinic. ©IDA/Malteser International

©IDA/Malteser International

Ten latrines and water tanks have been set in newly constructed emergency shelters. ©SARD/Malteser International

Together with IDA, Malteser International operates a physiotherapy center in Türkiye to provide rehabilitation services to those injured and affected by the earthquake. ©IDA/Malteser International

Cologne/ Gaziantep. "The extent of the destruction is still inconceivable. Although clean-up work is progressing in many parts of Türkiye and reconstruction has begun in some areas, millions of people are left with nothing," explains Dr. Thomas Weiss, Head of Malteser International's Middle East Department. The devastating earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria in February 2023 marked one of the biggest disasters in the region's recent history. More than 57,000 people lost their lives, while over 350,000 buildings were destroyed or damaged. Nearly 18 million people in Türkiye and neighboring Syria were – and are – directly affected by the quake's impact (UN OCHA). Immediately after the disaster, Malteser International sent an emergency relief team to support local authorities in Türkiye and partner organizations in Syria to provide urgently needed relief supplies. Now, six months later, Malteser International has intensified the relief efforts and is committed to supporting for the people affected by the earthquake long term.


High need for humanitarian assistance

According to the UN, more than ten million people in the affected regions still require humanitarian assistance. "The needs are many: medical care and follow-up, psychosocial support to cope with trauma, and provision of basic supplies in shelters and camps are just some of them," Weiss adds.

Aid measures in Türkiye

In Türkiye, especially in the municipalities of Kilis and Hatay, thousands of people are living in emergency shelters because their houses are destroyed or uninhabitable. In cooperation with the Turkish Red Crescent and Hand in Hand for Aid Development (HIHFAD), Malteser International distributes blankets, mattresses and shelter kits for basic needs. Also, the organization runs a physiotherapy center in Kilis together with its partner organization Independent Doctors Association (IDA) to provide rehabilitation services to those injured and affected by the earthquake. Since the tremor, more than 700 therapy sessions could be carried out. Complementing this, Malteser International, in collaboration with partner organizations HIHFAD, SARD and the Municipality of Kilis, is supporting the distribution of food packages and cash to purchase groceries in local markets. "Our activities are particularly focused on holistic health care. But behind all our actions are the stories of thousands of people. People are looking to talk, and the moving stories our colleagues hear on the ground are our incentive to continue to do our best for those impacted and provide them with the best possible support," Weiss emphasizes.

Relief efforts in Syria: Another disaster in one of the biggest humanitarian crises

The already complex humanitarian emergency in Syria has been further exacerbated by the earthquake and represents one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. In northwestern Syria, more than four million people are in urgent need of help. Malteser International is working closely with partner organizations in northwestern Syria to provide medical care on the ground and distribute basic food items in shelters, camps and informal settlements. In addition, the partner organizations are installing water and hygiene facilities on the ground.

Currently, Malteser International is supporting six hospitals, a maternity clinic with a children's hospital, and eight primary health care units in the Idlib and northern Aleppo regions. In addition, a new container hospital opened in Afrin in July as part of a community project, providing medical care to up to 150,000 people in need in the region and will serve as the main referral hospital in the district. In collaboration with IDA, Malteser International also deployed five mobile medical units to the earthquake-affected areas in Afrin, Azaz and Harim. HIHFAD is distributing food, bread, water, heating material and hygiene items in camps in the region to provide basic services. Also, SARD has set up ten latrines and water tanks in newly constructed emergency shelters.

Support for traumatized children

"Six months have passed since the earthquake. Debris from destroyed buildings and infrastructure still needs to be cleared. In addition to the physical effects, people are suffering above all from invisible wounds, the psychological traumas that need time to heal," says Bilal Al-Kurdi, an employee of the aid organization HIHFAD, describing the situation. Especially children, women and elderly people in the region suffer from the consequences of the earthquake. "To support the children's mental health, setting up child-friendly and safe places where they can play and escape for a moment from everyday life in the camps is an important measure," says Dr. Thomas Weiss.

 "The need for humanitarian aid was already immense before the earthquake, but with this further disaster it multiplies exponentially. We are grateful for the existing partner structures on the ground, which enable us to continue to assist the people - even under the most adverse circumstances, such as when renewed closures of border crossings are feared. So far, we have been able to support our partner organizations on the ground with aid supplies, and even if we don't know what the future holds, one thing is certain: we will not leave the people in northwestern Syria alone and will stand by them," emphasizes Dr. Thomas Weiss.

Malteser International (MI) works as an international humanitarian aid organization. It is an aid organization of the Catholic Order of Malta and particularly fulfills the order's mission of "helping those in need". The mission is to improve the health and living conditions of suffering and displaced people worldwide. The organization provides aid to people in need in over 130 projects in 36 countries, regardless of religion, political conviction, origin or gender. Christian values and the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence form the basis of its work. For further information please visit: www.malteser-international.org/en    

Attention editors:

Dr. Thomas Weiss, Head of the Middle East Department, of Malteser International is available for interviews and sound bites.

Contact kathrin.muenker(at)malteser-international.org , Tel. 0221 / 9822-7180.

Pictures for download are available here



Katharina Kiecol
Email: katharina.kiecol(at)malteser-international.org

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