Millions of people have lost their homes in the devastating earthquakes that struck northwestern Syria and Turkey in February. CSI’s partners on the ground continue to provide vital emergency aid while ensuring that those affected have a roof over their heads for the coming months.
More than 50,000 people lost their lives in the earthquakes of February 6, 2023, most of them in and around the Turkish city of Antakya. But the situation was also dramatic in the major Syrian city of Aleppo, where around 500 people died.
Nabil Antaki of CSI partner the Blue Marists recalls, “It happened at 4.17 am. It was raining and cold – 2 degrees Celsius. The earth began to shake. Buildings collapsed. Others swayed, especially the upper floors. Two million people ran out of their homes. The 45 seconds during which the earth shook seemed like an eternity.”
The Blue Marists acted very quickly. Less than half an hour after the earthquake they opened the doors to their residence. Within a few hours, more than a thousand people had found refuge there. They were given a meal, a warm drink, and blankets and mattresses.
For weeks, the Blue Marists housed and cared for hundreds of survivors. Like CSI’s other partners in Aleppo, the Maronite and Syriac Orthodox churches, they are continuing to provide the emergency aid that is essential for survival, along with psychological support in overcoming trauma.
At the same time, they are rising to the challenge of providing housing for earthquake victims. “Because the apartments of hundreds of thousands of people are uninhabitable in their current state,” says Antaki.
The Blue Marists have formed a committee of surveyors to check the condition of the apartments. If it is deemed acceptable, displaced residents are encouraged to go back home. “But if the apartment is uninhabitable, we rent an apartment for them for a year while we make the necessary repairs.”
In Syria, in addition to Aleppo, CSI is also helping affected people in Latakia on the Mediterranean Sea and in Hama, north of Homs.
CSI is working with local evangelical churches to help earthquake victims in the devastated southern Turkish city of Antakya and other areas. As church workers on the ground report, the main needs in the earthquake zone are for food, drinking water, sanitation and shelter.
Our partners distribute food regularly. They have also set up several hundred tents for homeless families, including one where activities are offered for children. Toilet facilities and a water treatment plant are provided.
Compared to Syria, far more houses have been razed to the ground in the Turkish earthquake zone, which is why entire tent cities are being built there.
With the arrival of spring, the rainy season has begun in the earthquake region. This complicates the already dire situation of the countless people who are housed in tents. For this reason, our partners are looking into setting up container accommodation.
The CSI partners in Syria and Turkey are grateful for the numerous donations they have received that make their help on the ground possible.