Behind the Scenes: Earthquake Disaster Responses

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This blog post was written by Cristina Deroo – Specialist-Donor Impact, Canadian Red Cross

Powerful earthquakes impact two countries

In the early morning of February 6, 2023, millions of people in Türkiye and Syria awoke in fear as the world around them shook violently. The buildings where many of them slept—and life as they knew it – had collapsed.

Two of the most powerful earthquakes in over a century rocked the region, followed by thousands of aftershocks. In the immediate aftermath, family members, neighbours, and emergency workers sifted through the rubble in search of survivors.

Only weeks later, another earthquake struck the same region, causing more buildings to collapse, more fatalities and injuries that further disrupted healthcare services, and forced more evacuations.

Red Crescent volunteer giving a blanket to a syria-turkey earthquake survivor and guiding them an area where they can get living essentials
The Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent were on the ground in the aftermath of the earthquakes, supporting search and rescue efforts, medical transportation, and shelter needs in the first hours and days. Photo: Turkish Red Crescent

Disaster on top of disaster

In Syria, the humanitarian situation is especially dire, with more than 90 percent of people living in poverty. The country is now in its 13th year of armed conflict. People in Syria already faced economic deterioration, COVID-19, cholera, unfavourable winter conditions and now earthquakes, leaving people in even greater need of humanitarian assistance.

Across the border, Türkiye hosts over 3.6 million Syrian refugees, half of who have been affected by the earthquake. Flooding has also impacted some of the earthquake-stricken regions.

Water and sanitation infrastructure was also heavily damaged by the earthquakes. In Syria, the lack of water and sanitation facilities, combined with overcrowded collective shelters, has accelerated the spread of diarrhea and other infectious diseases to a concerning level.

Local action with global resources

In both countries, local Red Crescent branches mobilized moments after the first earthquake hit. The Turkish Red Crescent and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent worked around the clock to help search for survivors and transport injured people to medical facilities. Even with their dedicated efforts, the needs of those affected continued to soar.

When local Red Cross Red Crescent Societies become overwhelmed by the needs following an emergency, partners like the Canadian Red Cross are ready to take action when a call for help arrives.

The Red Cross Red Crescent is the largest humanitarian aid organization in the world, comprised of 192 National Societies. Working with our partner National Societies, we can reach remote and cut-off regions where many other agencies are not granted access, including in Syria. Together as the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, we have unparalleled access to providing lifesaving humanitarian aid.

This is how the generous donations from people across Canada help those in need in Türkiye and Syria.

As international support began to arrive in Türkiye and Syria, including that of the Canadian Red Cross, local Red Cross and Red Crescent branches were able to scale up their response.


The Turkish Red Crescent has mobilized thousands of personnel to respond to the crisis across 11 affected provinces. This includes distributing over 300 million hot meals, as well as clean water, food, and cooking supplies. Closely coordinating with health authorities, the Turkish Red Crescent provides healthcare through mobile clinics in hard-hit rural areas and temporary shelters. Where markets function, the Turkish Red Crescent distributes more than 140,000 cash vouchers and supported 600,000 people with multi-purpose cash assistance, helping give those impacted the freedom and control to meet their needs in the way they prefer. Teams have supported more than 113,000 people with mental health and psychosocial support services, including setting up child-friendly spaces.

Mobile health unit providing health consultations and medications to syria-turkey earthquake sitesand
A SARC Mobile Health Unit provides free health consultations and medications in hard-hit communities like the Al Beidin area of Aleppo. Photo: Norwegian Red Cross.


The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is working to help people impacted by the earthquakes in the Aleppo, Latakia, Hama and Tartous governorates and has mobilized 4,000 personnel to respond. Teams have distributed more than 3.2 million relief items. Teams have provided more than 1.1 million people with healthcare and medicines through mobile health units, mental health teams, physical rehabilitation programs and clinics.

Canadian Red Cross support:

With thanks to the generosity of people in Canada and the Government of Canada, as of April 30, 2023, the Canadian Red Cross shipped thousands of relief items, including family tents, blankets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, and tarpaulins from our international warehouses; deployed 13 humanitarian experts in areas such as operations management, health and shelter; and contributed funding for winterized tents, medications, cholera kits, cash assistance, psychosocial support, and many other initiatives.

A Long Road to Recovery

The Turkish Red Crescent has deployed more than 5,000 staff and volunteers in 11 affected provinces with stocks of essential aid items. The materials supported those injured and evacuated, providing critical psychosocial support to people in distress, child-friendly spaces and distributing millions of hot meals to people displaced and living in emergency shelters. Photo: Turkish Red Crescent.

Four months after the earthquakes hit Türkiye and Syria, the most urgent needs continue to be shelter, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, food, and access to mental health and psychosocial support.

The earthquakes have caused severe disruptions to sanitation and access to safe water, and restoring these essential services will be crucial to prevent outbreaks of illness.

Today, Red Cross Red Crescent personnel, including humanitarian experts from the Canadian Red Cross, continue to support those affected in these incredibly challenging circumstances. For the survivors, the journey to recovery has only just begun, but because of the generosity of donors to the Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria Appeal, we can continue to be by their side.

You can help by making a donation in support of the Earthquake in Türkiye and Syria Appeal today. Visit to learn more.

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