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Six Months After Devastating Earthquake in Turkey and Syria, Recovery Continues

More than $4.6 million in financial support and 550 tons of medical aid has arrived in Turkey and Syria to support health systems in EQ zones.


Turkey-Syria Earthquake 2023

Dr. Hande Arpat from Direct Relief delivering hygiene kits and emergency medical bags for IBB (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality IBB) field hospital’s voluntary personnel in İskenderun, Turkey, on May 6, 2023. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

Six months have elapsed since the catastrophic February 6 earthquakes shook southern Turkey and northern Syria, and recovery and rebuilding are still taking place in both countries as people work to reconstruct their lives in many areas.

On Feb. 6, 2023, a devastating 7.8-magnitude earthquake and the aftershocks that followed reverberated through multiple provinces of Turkey and Syria, and the combined impact of the earthquakes killed more than 50,000 people and injured more than 100,000. Hundreds of thousands were displaced by dangerous and uninhabitable buildings and forced into temporary shelters.

Immediately after the earthquake, Direct Relief dispatched medical aid to assist with the first phase of the emergency, search and rescue efforts. The organization provided field medic packs for triage care, as well as emergency funds for search and rescue operations, and mobilized requests for medical aid from Turkey’s Ministry of Health and local organizations in both Turkey and Syria, providing health services to impacted communities.

As the region moves through the recovery phase, many people remain internally displaced from their homes, including healthcare staff remaining in the region. Hot and dry weather has created challenging conditions for those living in temporary encampments without access to air conditioning, and basic needs for clean water and power remain.

Access to mental health support, rehabilitation services for people injured by the earthquakes, and maternal and reproductive health needs remain high. Direct Relief is focusing on these areas for long-term recovery by directing funding and financial support for the continued strengthening of the health system.

In the six months since the earthquake, the organization has provided more than $4.6 million in financial assistance to groups providing essential health services in Turkey and Syria. Direct Relief has also provided 550 tons of medical aid, valued wholesale at $90.2 million, to support the work of health workers in the wake of the earthquakes.

Financial Summary

Direct Relief’s Dr. Hande Arpat oversees medical aid from arriving in Adana, Turkey, on May 4, 2023, for transport to earthquake-impacted areas of Turkey. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

The information included in this report, by necessity, includes unaudited figures because the organization’s formal audit coincides with its fiscal year, which is from July 1 to June 30. Audited figures for this period will be included when that audit and report are completed. Numbers are as of August 3, 2023.

Who Donated to the Response?

In response to the crisis, Direct Relief received contributions from 54,730 donors totaling $15,800,583 from individuals, foundations, businesses, and organizations located in 111 countries (including the U.S.). Donations from all 50 U.S. states and 4 territories were received.

Of the total amount of Turkey-Syria earthquake-designated contributions —

  • $9,307,057 was contributed by 54,474 individuals
  • $5,513,573 was contributed by 135 businesses
  • $866,500 was contributed by 39 foundations
  • $113,453 was contributed by 82 organizations

How Were the Funds Used?

Of the total Turkey-Syria earthquake response-designated cash contributions received to date, Direct Relief has expended or committed $8,679,553 to improve the health and lives of people affected by the disaster.

This includes:

  • $1,858,058 on transportation (paid and pending)
  • $4,680,000 on financial assistance to organizations supporting emergency response
  • $1,154,234 on procurement of oxygen concentrators, field medic packs, and other supplies
  • $987,251 on emergency personnel costs and other organizational response management expenses

Consistent with Direct Relief’s Donation Policy, 100 percent of funds received for specific emergency events are devoted entirely to those events, and none of the funds donated for Turkey-Syria earthquake response have been used for fundraising.

(As explained here, all Direct Relief's fundraising expenses are paid by the Direct Relief Foundation, which uses earnings on previously received bequests to the organization for this purpose and other non-programmatic costs.)

Medical Material Assistance

Direct Relief donated medical aid being delivered at the Hatay Medical Chamber and medical logistical & coordination unit in the destroyed center of Antakya, Turkey, on May 4, 2023. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief’s earthquake response support can be divided into three categories: medical material assistance, direct financial assistance and information assistance.

Direct Relief’s main objective in any large-scale disaster response is to safely and securely deliver emergency medical resources – requested, approved by the responsible government authority, and appropriate for the circumstances – where they are most needed, as fast and efficiently as possible.

As aftershocks continued, Direct Relief began working with local, regional and country-level organizations, including Turkey's Ministry of Health, to determine needs and requests for aid.

In Syria, Direct Relief leaned into strong, existing relationships with organizations that have long worked in the country to channel a high volume of aid.

Direct Relief-donated hygiene kits and emergency medical bags arrive for IBB (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality IBB) field hospital’s voluntary personnel in İskenderun, Turkey, on May 6, 2023. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

At the start of the emergency, Direct Relief’s first emergency shipment consisted of more than 100 field medic backpacks for search and rescue personnel dealing with injuries, infections, and other acute medical needs. Working with organizations such as the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the Renal Disaster Task Force, Direct Relief supported intensivists working to treat and stabilize those with traumatic injuries.

As needs became clearer, Direct Relief began to channel large volumes of aid via three separate charter flights to the region as part of the response. In April, an 80-ton charter, with transportation provided by FedEx, included specifically requested antibiotics, respiratory medications, anti-seizure therapies, vitamins for children and adults, personal protective equipment, hygiene items, and more. FedEx also provided funding for emergency medical backpacks sent.

As of Aug. 6, 2023, Direct Relief’s Turkey-Syria response efforts have resulted in the delivery or pending delivery of 550 tons of emergency medical goods, with a wholesale value of more than $90.2 million.

FedEx crew members load 80 tons of medical aid from Direct Relief onto a charter flight from Los Angeles to Istanbul in April 2023. (FedEx photo)

Over the past six months, Direct Relief’s relationships with local groups, its strong partnership with corporate donors, and its ability to securely deliver large quantities of medical goods – including temperature-sensitive products that require the use of cold-chain supplies and technologies – have resulted in the organization becoming a significant channel for the delivery of medical goods to benefit people in Turkey and Syria recovering from the quake.

Read More: ‘Death Just Beneath You’: Doctor Describes Turkey Earthquake, Ongoing Challenges

Dr. Yusuf Cekmece transported donations from Direct Relief into his makeshift office inside a shipping container. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

In Turkey

Healthcare facilities and organizations in Turkey that have received medical goods include:

  • Turkey's Ministry of Health
  • AKUT Search and Rescue
  • Ahbap Dernegi
  • Adana Metropolitan Municipality
  • Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
A health provider at a SAMS-operated hospital in Northwestern Syria cares for an infant earlier in 2023. Direct Relief has provided the group with emergency operations funding and medical aid to support health services in Syria. (SAMS photo)

In Syria

Healthcare facilities and organizations in Syria that have received medical goods include:

  • Syrian American Medical Society
  • Syrian Relief and Development
  • Independent Doctor's Association

Direct Financial assistance

SAMS staff at work at Al-Dana Warehouse, where Direct Relief funding helped boost capacity for area operations in northwestern Syria. The warehouse was recently outfitted with new shelving and a forklift to increase emergency storage and operational efficiency. (Courtesy Photo)

Thanks to the outpouring of financial support from donors, Direct Relief continues providing cash assistance to help facilities and organizations effectively respond to the ongoing needs of patients impacted by the earthquakes.

To date, Direct Relief has identified, vetted, and awarded emergency financial support totaling $4,694,240 in cash support for groups responding to medical needs related to the earthquake. The organization has supported groups in Turkey with $1,530,000 in funding and groups in Syria with $3,164,240.

Read More: Turkish Midwives Step Up for Mothers and Newborns, Post Earthquake

Midwives with the Turkish Midwifery Association distribute kits containing hygiene products for women recovering from birth. The group received $100,000 from Direct Relief to support midwifery services post-earthquake. (Courtesy photo)

Financial Support for Response in Turkey

Grant RecipientPurpose of FundingAmount
Society of Critical Care MedicineEmergency operating grant supported trauma care and delivery in Turkey.$500,000
HASUDERExpanded reproductive and mobile healthcare services to women and children affected by the earthquake in the Hatay region. Translation services also reached Syrian refugees.$275,000
Psychiatric Association of TurkiyeSupported volunteer psychiatrists providing services for earthquake survivors, first responders, and health workers.$175,000

Turkish Midwives Association
Supported urban search and rescue efforts and field medic packs for triage care.

World Human ReliefSupported face-to-face psychological services to those impacted by the earthquakes, funded staff, and purchased modular units to house staff.$100,000
Turkish Society of Surgery of the Hand and Upper ExtremityProvided surgical services and a mobile rehabilitation suite for those injured or disabled by the earthquakes.$100,000
AKUT Search and Rescue Association Supported urban search and rescue efforts, and field medic packs for triage care.$100,000
Turkish Society of Intensive CarePurchased and transported 10 container housing units for medical staff.$50,000
Turkish Medical AssociationPurchased and transported 10 container housing units for medical staff, stethoscopes, tablet computers and fuel.$60,000
Ankara Medical ChamberEstablished and equipped women's health center and van for mobile health screenings and referrals in Malatya Province.$50,000
Turkish Society of Nephrology - Renal Disaster Task ForcePurchased and transported four container housing units for medical staff cycling into Adiyaman, Hatay, and Kahramanmaras to provide care for crush wounds and resulting kidney issues from acute traumas.$20,000

Financial Support for Response in Syria

Grant RecipientPurpose of FundingAmount
Syrian American Medical Society Funded the procurement of medications, surgery supplies, customs clearance, and transportation costs.$1,614,240
Syria Relief and DevelopmentSupported emergency operating costs, customs clearance, and transportation. Expanded medical warehousing capacity and purchased medical equipment.$600,000
Independent Doctor's AssociationBolstered emergency operating costs, warehousing and distribution of medical supplies, customs clearance, and transportation. Provided specialized education and training for healthcare staff, procured medical equipment and implemented health management systems.$950,000

Information Assistance

In addition to providing medical material and financial aid, Direct Relief has been a critical information supplier to key organizations involved in the response. Working with technology companies, academic institutions, and health providers, Direct Relief has used human mobility data, geospatial analysis, and other data collection and analytics instruments to help understand key issues.

Within Turkey, Direct Relief has focused mainly on understanding the scale of human displacement. Using data from Meta on change in population density and movement between places, linked to surveys on the needs of internally displaced persons, Direct Relief has shared nearly two dozen reports and analytical data feeds focused on population displacement with agencies ranging from AFAD to the World Food Program.

Corporate Support

Direct Relief was able to supply a large array of medical material support without the expenditure of donor funds due to the in-kind donations from healthcare manufacturers and distributors, many of which Direct Relief works with on an ongoing basis.

Healthcare company donors responded expansively to requests for their participation. Included among them are 3M, Abbott, AbbVie, Accord Healthcare, Amgen, AmerisourceBergen, Apotex, AstraZeneca, Baxter, Bayer, BD, BioMarin, BMS, Boehringer Ingelheim, Edenbridge, Eli Lilly & Co., Embecta, Genmab, Gilead, Grifols, GSK, Haleon, Henry Schein, Hikma, Integra Lifesciences, Janssen, Jazz Pharma, J&J, Kenvue, Liquid IV, McKesson, Medline, Merck & Co., Pfizer, Sandoz, Takeda, Teva (Turkey), Ultragenyx, Unilever, Vertex, Viatris, and Westminster.

Looking Forward

A hospital damaged during the earthquake in Antakya, Turkey. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

With the amount of infrastructure damage and displacement of people still significant six months later, true recovery from the earthquake's damage will likely be decades-long. As this phase continues, Direct Relief remains committed to general support of the health system, as well as focus areas in Turkey and Syria.

In Turkey and Syria, Direct Relief is focused on increasing and supporting maternal and reproductive health care services, mobile health services, and sustaining primary care access.

Direct Relief has supported HASUDER's women's health and reproductive service unit, which provides health services and screenings, counseling, personal care and family planning items for people displaced by the earthquake.

Two doctors with the HASUDER women's health unit provides various methods of birth control, emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, STI treatments and more inside a camp for people displaced by the earthquake. The clinic runs with the support of IPPF (International Planned Parenthood Federation) and Hatay Metropolitan Municipality. Direct Relief supported the group with funding and personal care products for displaced people. (Photo by Francesca Volpi for Direct Relief)

Supporting access to psychosocial services for those affected by the earthquake, including health workers, also remains a priority. One example of support includes the Turkish Psychiatric Association, which deploys volunteer psychiatrists to earthquake-impacted areas to provide psychosocial services for survivors and first responders.

The organization also holds regional-certified disaster mental health training for medical professionals in the field to support a sustainable, integrated approach to care. To ensure the Syrian refugee communities also have access to these services, the Turkish Psychiatrists Association employs trained Arabic translators from refugee settlements in the earthquake zones.

Direct Relief supported the Psychiatric Association of Turkey with $175,000 to support mental health outreach to earthquake survivors. The group is pictured here holding a session in Antakya, Turkey. (Courtesy photo)

As the response continues, Direct Relief remains able to provide support detailed in this report as a result of its existing strong relationships with non-governmental organizations that were already receiving Direct Relief medical product shipments, ongoing work with clinical experts in the field to guide distribution and procurement decisions, existing partnerships and contracts in place to quickly request and receive high-quality medications from pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors, and a strong track record of shipping large volumes of product, including those requiring cold chain packaging and storage, to difficult-to-access places to reach the most vulnerable patients.

Direct Relief will continue to provide assistance to the region as recovery continues.

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