“We were in the hallway trying to leave the house, but only 1 of my sons could get out. I was in the rubble for 2 days before they rescued me,” says 44-year-old Syrian Mustafa. “I thought my whole family was waiting for me outside, but that wasn’t the reality. Only 3 of my children survived. I lost my wife and 2 children.” Mustafa himself lost both lower limbs, requiring above-the-knee amputation.
As Türkiye marks 1 year since the devastating earthquakes of February 2023, Mustafa’s story is tragically familiar amongst the survivors who are still rebuilding their lives.
On 6 February 2023, southeast Türkiye and northwest Syria were struck by a series of destructive 7.8 magnitude earthquakes. In Türkiye this disaster killed over 50,000 people and affected 13 million more across 11 provinces. Today, exactly 1 year on from the event, the pain and the grief of the survivors is still raw. Their daily lives are filled with the pain of their injuries and the loss of their old lives: loved ones, homes, livelihoods.
Although the Turkish government is working hard in the affected regions to support earthquake survivors, there are many more whose calls for help are going unanswered. More aid is urgently required: from food and water to shelter and winter supplies.
On the day of the disaster the European Union sprang into action, delivering emergency support and coordinating over 30 search and rescue teams and 7 medical teams on the ground. Over the past year the EU has continued to provide humanitarian support to refugees and local communities affected by the disaster in cooperation with Turkish authorities. With needs still significantly high, this support is set to continue into 2024.
“It connected me to life again” – Mustafa learns to walk again
Mustafa received artificial limbs from a private medical facility 4 months ago. Thanks to EU humanitarian support delivered via the NGO Relief International, Mustafa now receives physical training at the National Syrian Project for Prosthetic Limbs (NSPPL) Center to regain his mobility.
‘This center connected me to life again,” says Mustafa. “I’m trying to get used to my new situation. Sitting in a wheelchair is hell. I am pushing myself to walk again. I need a job for the future of my surviving children.”
“Accommodation is a serious problem” – Ahmed’s family searches for a home
Ahmed’s family fled Syria and took refuge in Türkiye in 2014. Despite many challenges, Ahmed had built himself a normal life in Gaziantep with his wife Sihem and their 4 children. But on the 6th of February their lives fell apart again.
With their house destroyed due to the earthquake, the family was forced to move into a temporary accommodation center for 2 months. They eventually decided to leave due to unhygienic conditions. Thankfully, EU funding helped Ahmed’s family to eventually find a home. “We found this house and thanks to the EU, the charity GOAL supported us with 4 months of rent,” Ahmed says.
Ahmed doesn’t know what they will do after those four months have passed. “I feel overwhelmed. Accommodation is a serious problem; prices are constantly rising, and I don’t have a regular job. My son was in university and had to drop out because we need money. We are in a desperate situation.”
“No one should shower under tarpaulins” – Ahmed and Vidad worry about winter
Ahmed and Vidad live with their 4 children in Hatay, southeast Türkiye. After their house was destroyed by the earthquake, they moved to a tent opposite a barn where they raised livestock. A year on and they are still there and sharing their space with 20 other people.
“Our food is very limited, electricity is not always available and we have difficulties accessing health services. It’s now winter and we need help with winterisation kits, fuel, and warm clothing,” Ahmed says.
Thanks to EU support, the Irish NGO Concern provides Ahmed and Vidad’s family with hygiene kits and water tanks.
These make a big difference in their daily lives. “Don’t forget us! Help us have some dignity,” pleads Ahmed. “Shower and hot water are big problems. No one should shower under tarpaulins in winter.”
“Our most basic needs are food and hygiene” – Ayse longs for her old life
58-year-old Ayse (left in the first photo), lost her relatives and her home in the earthquake, today lives with her 32-year-old daughter Nimet (right), her son and her grandson.
“Our 2-story house was destroyed and our car was unusable. I can say that we live on the street now,” explains Ayse.
“We have a greenhouse that we set up before the earthquake. We use it to store a few items we took out of our house, and we live in the tent next to it. We are at zero. We didn’t want to leave our home and move to a container, we just couldn’t do it.”
With EU humanitarian funding, the NGO Concern provides Ayse’s family with hygiene and dignity kits and have installed toilets. This has finally improved their living conditions. “This support has helped us a lot. But showers and hot water are still a big problem,” says Ayse. “We are trying to save the day. Living in a tent is very difficult psychologically. Our most basic needs are food and hygiene. I miss our old happy and peaceful days so much that my heart hurts.”
“The assistance needs to continue” – Faruk and Sibel speak up
Faruk and Sibel currently transport EU-funded food parcels to people in need in the southeastern region of Hatay. “We thank the EU very much for this support,” Faruk says. “The assistance needs to continue.”