How to Help Türkiye and Syria in the Aftermath of Deadly Earthquakes

As the death toll climbs into the thousands, concerns mount and hearts break the world over. Here’s what to know about the current situation as aftershocks continue and aid groups race in to provide support.

Rescuers in Aleppo, Syria, sit atop the rubble of buildings brought down by earthquakes

Rescuers in Aleppo, Syria, search for survivors in the rubble of buildings brought down by powerful earthquakes and multiple aftershocks that struck in south central Türkiye and northern Syria.

Photo by Omar Sanadiki/AP

Search and rescue teams and emergency aid workers from around the world descended on Türkiye and Syria on Tuesday as the death toll soared above 6,200 following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

The 7.8 earthquake struck south central Türkiye near the border with Syria at approximately 4:15 a.m. local time on February 6, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which tracks earthquakes around the world. The agency noted that the initial earthquake and some of the aftershocks occurred at relatively shallow depths, which is why the shaking was so severe.

“An earthquake this size has the potential to be damaging anywhere in the world, but many structures in this region are particularly vulnerable,” stated USGS scientist David Wald. “It’s difficult to watch this tragedy unfold, especially since we’ve known for a long time about how poorly the buildings in the region tend to behave in earthquakes.”

Dozens of aftershocks hit Türkiye and Syria

Some 30 aftershocks magnitude 4.5 and greater have been recorded since the first tremor, the largest of which was a magnitude 7.5 earthquake that took place nine hours after the initial quake and about 60 miles north.

Only three earthquakes of magnitude 6 or larger have been registered in this region since 1970, USGS reported. Türkiye was struck by another major earthquake in January 2020—a magnitude 6.7 that caused significant damage in the eastern part of the country. In 1999, a 7.4 magnitude quake struck near Istanbul and killed an estimated 18,000 people.

Aftershocks are likely to continue in the vicinity, which, according to USGS, is a tectonically active area where three tectonic plates—the plates of Anatolia, Arabia, and Africa—meet and interact with one another.

The devastation of vulnerable infrastructure

The epicenter of the February 6 magnitude 7.8 earthquake was near Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital in Türkiye.

“While newer buildings in other parts of Türkiye [like Istanbul] are designed with modern earthquake standards in mind, the area affected by this earthquake included more vulnerable buildings, like older types of concrete frames that were not designed from seismic considerations to absorb this much ground motion,” stated USGS scientist Kishor Jaiswal.

Officials reported that thousands of buildings collapsed in the wake of the earthquake. They included “pancake” collapses, where upper floors of a building fall straight down onto the lower floors—a sign that the buildings couldn’t absorb the shaking, Jaiswal said.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by freezing temperatures and traffic jams from residents trying to leave quake-stricken areas.

More than 8,000 people have been pulled from the debris in Türkiye alone, and some 380,000 have taken refuge in government shelters or hotels, stated Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay. Many took to social media to plead for assistance for loved ones believed to be trapped under the rubble—and Türkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Interior Ministry officials as saying all calls were being “collected meticulously” and the information relayed to search teams.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said 13 million of the country’s 85 million were affected in some way—and declared a state of emergency across much of the country.

As promises of help flooded in, Türkiye said it would only allow vehicles carrying aid to enter the worst-hit provinces of Kahramanmaras, Adiyaman, and Hatay in order to speed the effort.

The United Nations said it was “exploring all avenues” to get supplies to rebel-held northwestern Syria, where millions live in extreme poverty and rely on humanitarian aid to survive.

A few months ago, AFAR wrote about the the ways Syrian refugees have transformed Gaziantep’s food culture, a reminder of how identity and borders are often more fluid than we think.

Gaziantep—as well as dozens of cities and towns throughout the region—now faces a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

For those watching, worrying, and wondering how to help, we’ve rounded up some of the organizations assisting the victims of the Türkiye–Syria earthquake.

How to help Türkiye and Syria in the aftermath of the earthquakes

A woman sits among rubble of a destroyed building in Nurdagi on the outskirts of Osmaniye, in southern Türkiye.

A woman among the rubble in Nurdagi on the outskirts of Osmaniye, a city in southern Türkiye.

Photo by Khalil Hamra/AP

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Also known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Doctors Without Borders has teams working in northwestern Syria, where hospitals are overwhelmed by the tens of thousands of people who have reportedly been injured by the earthquakes. The organization donates emergency medical kits and provides healthcare facilities with support by way of additional medical staff. It also donates blankets and essential life kits to displaced people in the region.

“The earthquakes destroyed hundreds of houses, leaving thousands of people without homes. People are staying outside despite the snow due to fear of aftershocks that have continued throughout the day,” MSF reported. “The majority of the wounded are concentrated in the cities of the northern part of northwest Syria, such as Al-Bab, Afrin, and Azaz. MSF is supporting at least eight hospitals with supplies for trauma surgery.”


A global network of local organizations that works to fight inequality and end poverty and injustice, the Oxfam affiliate in Türkiye has partnered with about 80 women’s cooperatives in 10 Turkish provinces that have been most affected by the earthquakes.
“Reaching survivors will be extremely challenging with many roads and highways damaged or blocked,” stated Meryam Aslan, Oxfam’s spokesperson in Ankara. Aslan said that Oxfam will be working to provide water, food, support, and shelter in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and rehabilitation and reconstruction in the longer term.

Project Hope

An international nonprofit devoted to empowering healthcare workers and systems throughout the world, Project Hope has deployed emergency response teams to the affected areas in Türkiye and Syria to assist with the distribution of medicine, emergency kits, and medical supplies, as well as with search and rescue efforts.

Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS)

“Our hospitals are overwhelmed with patients filling the hallways. There is an immediate need for trauma supplies and a comprehensive emergency response to save lives and treat the injured,” the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) wrote in its latest update in the aftermath of the devastating quakes in the region.

The global medical relief organization is working on the front lines of crisis relief in Syria and in neighboring countries.

The Turkish and Syrian Arab Red Crescents

The global Red Cross and Red Crescent networks are providing warm meals, water, tents, and blankets to the injured and evacuated in Türkiye and Syria and are collecting and shipping blood and plasma donations to the impacted areas. They are also supporting search and rescue operations, providing first aid, performing emergency medical evacuations, and transporting injured people to hospitals in addition to providing psychosocial support to the victims.

“With freezing temperatures and snow falling, the Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent are working diligently to support the rapidly changing needs on the ground as the devastation continues to unfold. Rescue teams are working in the hardest-hit areas where survivors remain trapped under rubble,” the Red Cross and Red Crescent networks said in a statement.

Turkish embassy and consulates

The Turkish embassy and consulates throughout the United States are accepting donations of blankets, tents, sleeping bags, pocket warmers, winter clothing, and over-the-counter medications for flu, cold, and pain relief by mail or through in-person drop off.

The White Helmets

Also known as the Syria Civil Defense, the White Helmets are a group of humanitarian volunteers who help those in need “regardless of their religion or politics . . . in a place where public services no longer function.” Currently, 3,000 White Helmets are on the ground in Syria searching for survivors among the rubble and transporting the injured to hospitals in freezing conditions.

Associated Press contributed reporting.

Michelle Baran is a deputy editor at AFAR where she oversees breaking news, travel intel, airline, cruise, and consumer travel news. Baran joined AFAR in August 2018 after an 11-year run as a senior editor and reporter at leading travel industry newspaper Travel Weekly.
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