MSF responds to overwhelming needs as earthquakes hit south Türkiye and northwest Syria

06 Feb 23

Update, 28 February 2023: Just two weeks after the first earthquakes caused such a tragic loss of life, this latest earthquake is extremely worrying for people in Syria and Türkiye, many of whom have already lost their loved ones, homes or livelihoods.  We are currently assessing the impact of this latest earthquake. Minutes after the quake our teams have already received and treated patients in the clinics and hospitals we support in the north of Idlib, Syria. We continue with the ongoing medical and other assistance to the huge numbers of people affected by the earthquakes, either directly or via partner organisations.

The situation is extremely fast-moving. The latest information on MSF's response to the earthquake will be shared as it becomes available.


Following the powerful earthquakes that hit the south of Türkiye and Northwest Syria on February 6th, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), already supporting the population of Northwest Syria, has mobilized its team along with local partners to respond to the increasing needs in the area. According to the latest official data from the UN, the death toll has surpassed 49,000, while tens of thousands of have been injured and millions have been left homeless as of February 23rd.

Key numbers

  • As of February 21, the death toll across Türkiye and Syria has surpassed 49,000: 44,347 confirmed dead in Türkiye and 6,000 in Syria, according to official sources.
  • In Northwest Syria, the number of destroyed buildings is 1,764 and the number of partially destroyed buildings is 5,771. The number of families affected by this earthquake is over 11,000 families who are now homeless.

What is the situation in Northwest Syria?

Following the two strong earthquakes many buildings in northwest Syria collapsed leaving thousands of people homeless. Many hospitals have been damaged, with some, such as the hospital in Jandaris, unable to carry on treating patients. Two MSF-supported maternity centers were evacuated, due to the risk of the buildings collapsing. Our medical staff and the staff of other facilities have been working hard to treat patients since the first earthquake.Two weeks after the quake, the search and rescue phase is over. However, humanitarian needs remain acute.

A MSF nurse is registering patient at the mobile clinic setted up in Al-Fuqara camp, Al-Dana area.

There was major destruction in large buildings in urban centers, more so than in places where people live in temporary shelters. The locality of South Afrin (Jandaris), Aleppo Governorate, might be the most affected area.

{{ ctaright.node.field_explanation }}

Throughout the region thousands of houses and buildings have been destroyed, leaving thousands of people homeless. To make matters worse, the temperatures are very cold, while people remain outside with many sleeping in their cars due to the fear of further aftershocks that have continued until yesterday. 

Northwest Syria is already going through a dire humanitarian situation due to many years of war, the economic situation, the pandemic and, more recently, a cholera outbreak. This region hosts more than 4 million people, 2.8 million being internally displaced by the conflict. Many have been displaced repeatedly and live in precarious conditions. This earthquake makes the situation even more difficult while the medical and healthcare system continues to be fragile. 

Now, we enter the second phase, after the first lifesaving rescue response, we are now considering the secondary effects of the earthquake including disruption in healthcare provision, affecting the continuity of care for the most vulnerable, in addition to risks of disease outbreaks. This includes a potential surge of waterborne diseases in particular cholera, as we were still seeing and managing cases of cholera even prior to the earthquake. 

Syrian doctors operate on a patient in a hospital in Atmeh. The equipment for the operating room of this hospital comes from a donation from the MSF team in Atmeh.

What is MSF doing in Northwest Syria?

As of February 24, 2023,in Northwest Syria-  30,232 relief items have been distributed, 5,667 mobile clinic consultations done, 450 mental health consultations have been conducted. In addition 27 tons of medical supplies have also been donated.

Since the first hours following the first earthquake, our Syrian colleagues have been working to provide help and care, even though their own personal situations were difficult. MSF has received wounded patients in the hospitals we run and support. We’ve treated more than 7,600 patients so far and have recorded around 1,000 deaths.

MSF supported 32 hospitals and health facilities, through donations of emergency kits, trauma kits medical supplies, and blankets. This includes facilities in Idlib, Azaz, Afrin, Mare’, Bab El Hawa, among other towns. We also sent medical staff, including surgeons, to support hospitals dealing with the influx of wounded.  

In 4 health facilities (hospitals and clinics) in Idlib governorate, we treated injured patients, and we increased the capacity of the hospitals we’re working in by adding triage tents in the outside wards.

In addition, we deployed our ambulances and we’re supporting 90 ambulances to facilitate the transfer of patients in need of emergency assistance to the closest health facilities.Two weeks after we have scaled up efforts deploying mobile clinics and distributing relief items to affected populations.

We set up mobile clinics that were deployed in three reception centers, and eleven different camps in northwest Syria. The aim is to offer essential medical services to people affected by the earthquakes.

Patients entering the mobile clinic setted up by MSF in Al-Fuqara camp, Al-Dana area.

Mental health services:

Our teams launched a mental health hotline that is accessible to people, that is being communicated in the community through our health promoters and mental health specialists.

Offering relief support to affected families:

In Aleppo governorate, with our local partners, we distributed food and blankets to more than 500 families in the reception centers in Afrin.

Similarly, we distributed more than 800 kits, including hygiene items, kitchen kits, winter kits and blankets, to affected people in Jindires, one of the most affected cities, and families in reception centers in Azaz and Mare’ and surrounding villages. A total of 19,594 blankets have been distributed in northwest Syria.

Offering immediate relief support to people affected by the earthquakes, particularly those without shelter in this cold weather, will remain a priority for our team. We will continue to assess the needs and adapt our response accordingly.

Donations/ MSF aid into northwest Syria:

In an effort to continue our support, on Sunday, February 26th 2023, MSF has brought in a convoy of 15 trucks including 1234 tents and  winter kits to be distributed in the following days.In addition, 24 tons of medical items have been imported in preparation for scaling up of activities.

“We are very shocked and saddened by the impact of this disaster on the thousands of people touched by it, including our colleagues and their families”

Sebastien gayMSF Head of mission in syria

MSF team, a social worker and a logistician, visited the Atarib area, in Aleppo, one of the most affected areas, to conduct an initial assessment and identify critical needs after the earthquake.


What is the situation in Türkiye?

Hundreds of thousands of people in Türkiye have been left homeless and millions have been affected by the devastating earthquakes, which have impacted eleven provinces in different degrees, hosting 16% of the country’s total population. Despite the significant response by the authorities and the solidarity of the Turkish civil society, there are still unmet needs for many people affected by the earthquake.

Many people have lost their homes and economic activities, they have lost relatives and their loved ones and are living through very hard conditions. Some people are sad, desperate, anxious and uncertain about the future. Many relive the experiences in their minds and believe it could happen again. The provision of mental health support is crucial following all this suffering.

Some of the quake-hit areas of Türkiye were already hosting millions of Syrian refugees in a very vulnerable situation and living in precarious shelters.

At present we are working in partnership with different local NGOs and civil society organisations to provide much needed humanitarian and relief assistance. We focus on neglected areas where our intervention can have an added value.

Food distribution in Kilis, Türkiye, with MSF’s partner IBC and coordination with the Turkish Red Crescent.

What is MSF doing in Türkiye?

MSF is focusing on donating medical items and other materials.

Since 8 February, in partnership with the Turkish NGO IBC, MSF has provided food and first aid distributions in several shelters in Kilis, a border area in the south-west of Gaziantep. As of February 25, 2023, more than 27,000 hygiene kits and 14,000 relief items have been distributed. In partnership with local NGO's/ civil society organisations, MSF has donated essential relief items and medical supplies, WASH and food in areas of Adiyaman, Elbistan,Gaziantep, Islahiye district, Hatay, Kilis, Nurdağı District, Kahramanmaras, Pazarcik and Kayseri, Malatya.

Mental health support in Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Pazarcik and Kayseri:

MSF has provided mental health and psychosocial support for people affected by the earthquake, including volunteers and search and rescue teams engaged in the response through individual and group work, as well as by donating pedagogical material for psycho-social workshops.

An MSF staff distributing blankets in Afrin, Syria, following the earthquake.

How can I help MSF to respond to this crisis?

Due to the unique way that MSF is funded, most of our donations are "unrestricted" and can be used wherever the need is greatest. The actions our teams are taking in the affected regions are funded by donations just like these.

Please consider donating to our emergency fund, which will give our medical teams across the world the valuable flexibility to respond as needs arise. 

donate to our emergency fund


An international response

“We are very shocked and saddened by the impact of this disaster on the thousands of people touched by it, including our colleagues and their families”, says Sebastien Gay, MSF Head of Mission in Syria.  

"The needs are very high in northwest Syria as this quake adds a dramatic layer for the vulnerable populations that are still struggling after many years of war”, adds Gay. “The massive consequences of this disaster will require an international aid effort that is up to the scale”. 

MSF remains in close contact with the local authorities in northwest Syria and with the authorities in Türkiye to extend our support where it’s needed. We are currently assessing the situation and needs in Idlib, northern Aleppo and south Turkey to scale up our response accordingly, as the number of deaths and injuries is increasing by the hour.