Concern on the ground in Turkey after earthquake

February 12, 2023

Concern’s team in Türkiye has been helping meeting the immediate needs of those affected by the earthquake and is also planning a longer term response.

An apocalyptic scene

The destruction in the center of this metropolitan area which is home to 600,000 people is almost unbelievable. Downtown, almost no building has escaped damage and scores of multi-storey apartment blocks have simply collapsed, pancaking into huge piles of concrete and twisted metal. As they fell, they trapped thousands of people, many of whom had no chance of survival.

people in front of collapsed building

Traumatized and newly homeless residents in the Turkish city of Adiyaman, where most of the city center was destroyed by a powerful earthquake on February 6th 2023. Photo: Kieran McConville/Concern Worldwide

Those who rushed to carry out search and rescue operations worked around the clock to save lives, but for the most part they were out of luck. Surviving friends and family waited anxiously for news of loved ones, but with depressing regularity, howls of grief could be heard around the streets as body after body was extracted from the rubble. Within days the mission had become one of recovery. Many will never be found.

For those who remain, conditions are tough. Thousands of families instantly became homeless or are too afraid to return to damaged and unstable buildings. They huddle around fires, crowd into sports halls and community centers, and camp out in makeshift tents. Infrastructure in the city has been badly damaged, leaving no electricity or running water, and freezing nighttime temperatures compound the misery. Those who have the opportunity have left, traveling to rural towns and villages to stay with friends or relatives.

Mehmet Taşar, whose family have been left homeless and are living in a tent, says

“We still face challenges with regards to shelter, hygiene, and heating. Our mental state is greatly affected, but at the moment, we are trying not to dwell on it.”

Mehmet (3rd from left) and members of his family stay warm outside a tent which has become their temporary home in Adiyaman, Türkiye. Photo: Kieran McConville/Concern Worldwide

Many others have nowhere else to go. A substantial proportion of the population are refugees from neighboring Syria, who fled here over the past twelve years in search of refuge from the war in their homeland. They are least well equipped to deal with their situation and are extremely vulnerable. But the tragedy has impacted everyone and the humanitarian situation facing tens of thousands of people is grim.

Concern in action

Concern Worldwide has a substantial presence in the region, with a base in neighboring Sanliurfa supporting refugees, and the local team began to respond to the crisis almost immediately. “Many of us were quite shaken by what happened, but thankfully nobody on the team was seriously hurt,” says Begum Akdogan, Program Coordinator. “We wanted to start helping in whatever way we could.”

Learn more about how you can help Türkiye and Syria

A hot food delivery from Concern staff to people left homeless by the February 6th earthquake in Türkiye. Photo: Kieran McConville

Within hours, the team came together and began assembling supplies — blankets, heaters, water, and other essentials — and delivering them to centers in the locality where people had gathered to take shelter. By Tuesday, they had set up a kitchen operation at the Concern office, cooking hundreds of hot meals and distributing them to affected families.

“As we put together a more substantive effort to provide support for the victims of the earthquake, it’s amazing to see our staff using their initiative and translating their humanitarian commitment into action in such a meaningful way.”

Concern has been working with local authorities and other partners to assess the needs and design an effective and comprehensive plan for supporting Adiyaman in the coming days, weeks, and months. Negotiations are under way to secure major institutional funding and already a substantial amount of money has been donated by the public to emergency appeals launched by offices in Ireland, the UK, South Korea, and the US.

A family left homeless by the Feb 6th earthquake in Sanliurfa, Türkiye. Photo: Kieran McConville

“Shelter for those left homeless by the earthquake will be a major priority, along with water and sanitation services, food, and essential household item,” according to Concern Program Director, Ali Fuat Sutlu. “There’s a strong civil society here and we are combining our expertise and resources to ensure that these very vulnerable people will get the support they need, both immediately and into the future. This earthquake stretched across an arc of 400kms, causing massive damage and displacing hundreds of thousands of families, and the humanitarian situation will be challenging for many months. We will be there every step of the way.”

Concern on the Ground in Turkey