In June 2023 I had the opportunity to visit southern Türkiye as part of an Australian Red Cross monitoring trip to the earthquake zone. It’s hard to comprehend the profound impact the earthquakes have had on the people of Türkiye and Syria until you’re amongst the rubble of once thriving neighbourhoods, witnessing the destruction, and seeing how it has changed people’s lives forever.
The numbers are hard to read. Across both countries, nearly 60,000 lives were lost, and in Türkiye alone, 4.3 million people remain displaced. On the other side of the border, Syrians who have endured more than a decade of conflict must now contend with this new disaster.
Yet, despite the challenges there was the undeniable sense of determination in local communities to recover and rebuild. Since day one, teams from Turkish Red Crescent and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have been tirelessly responding to the urgent and changing needs of affected people. Staff and volunteers across Türkiye, Syria, and from all around the globe have been on the ground with local communities since day one, and will continue to be there for the weeks, months and years ahead as both countries move towards recovery.
As we were driving around the earthquake- affected regions, the sheer scale of the response operation led by Turkish Red Crescent became clear. Perhaps the biggest aspect of the response in Türkiye has been the “mass feeding” – the preparation and distribution of hundreds of millions of hot meals. The Turkish Red Crescent was tasked with this by the Turkish Government, and it was a role they proudly took on.
With so many homes destroyed and with around 2.6 million people now living in tent cities, the provision of hot meals has been critical in the first phase of the response.
We had the opportunity to visit some of the industrial-scale kitchens that Turkish Red Crescent have set up in universities, community centres, and camps, where they are able to prepare and deliver 60,000 meals three times a day, amounting to an astounding 416 million meals since February.
Over the border, Syrian Arab Red Crescent has been instrumental in providing assistance to those who need it. They’ve been distributing essential relief items, providing clean drinking water, providing over 2.4 million people with medical services, and extending mental health support to survivors, giving them an opportunity to process what they’ve been through.
The scale of the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria was almost too much to comprehend. But to witness the response by the local teams on the ground was nothing short of astonishing.
Despite the gravity of this disaster, it is in moments like this that the best of humanity shines through.
"Everywhere, I saw a determination to recover and rebuild.”