Türkiye-Syria Earthquakes: One Year On And Still Responding

Türkiye-Syria Earthquakes: One Year On And Still Responding

On February 6, 2023, Airlink launched our Middle East and North Africa Regional Response Plan to respond to the earthquakes that devastated southwestern Türkiye and northeastern Syria. One year later, we continue to support our NGO partners’ long-term recovery programs in the region. To date, Airlink has provided flights for 316 responders and transported 1,000 metric tons of urgently-needed relief supplies. We have brought on 7 new NGO partners, 3 new airline partners, and have received incredible support from our donor base that continues to make our response possible. Together, we have been able to transport the right aid at the right time to provide relief to over 600,000 people.

One year ago today, 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes hit Türkiye’s Gaziantep Province and devastated southwestern Türkiye and northeastern Syria. Over 54,000 people were killed in Türkiye and more than 10 million were displaced. The majority of those displaced were vulnerable populations in Syria who had been uprooted many times prior as a result of a decade of civil war. The region had not experienced earthquakes of this magnitude in 100 years. Transportation infrastructure was badly damaged with over 160,000 buildings having collapsed in Türkiye, which imposed significant access constraints in trying to reach affected populations. Millions in Türkiye and Syria were left without power, telecommunication access, medical support, temporary shelter, food, and water. Even with the international community mobilizing to support affected communities, the needs in the region remain immense and Airlink continues to support recovery needs.

Within a few hours of the request from the Turkish government for international assistance on February 6, 2023, Airlink was in contact with our NGO partners to determine their needs and coordinate airlift. Within 13 hours, Airlink had deployed search and rescue teams from our NGO partners to Türkiye. In the immediate phase of our response, Airlink also provided flights for responders who conducted needs assessments and emergency medical services. We also deployed material aid on behalf of our NGO partners, including medical items, tents and temporary shelter, winterization materials such as generators, and technical equipment to establish communications that would improve the coordination and movement of aid. 

In the weeks and months after the initial response, responder focus shifted to debris removal, rebuilding infrastructure, establishing water and power sources, and the continuation of medical service provisions. During this response period, Airlink mobilized medical supplies and medicines, hygiene kits, and fortified shelter materials including kitchen sets and solar lights. Of note, our single biggest undertaking for this response was an airbridge established between Pakistan and Türkiye in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Turkish Airlines Cargo

One year later, Airlink continues to support our NGO partners’ long-term recovery efforts in the region, including medical services and training for local staff, support for temporary communities, and relief aid distribution. To date, Airlink has engaged over 60 NGO partners in our Türkiye-Syria response and provided travel for 316 responders. As a demand-led organization, collaboration with our NGO partner network continues to inform our long-term recovery effort. The scale of the humanitarian community’s mobilization also allowed Airlink to foster new partnerships with GAiN, Humanity First InternationalLA Sheriff Reserve Association, PKPU Human Initiative, ServeOn, Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS), and the Turkish Red Crescent.

The response to the immediate and long-term humanitarian needs stemming from the earthquakes was not without challenges. Parts of Syria affected by the quakes are in rebel-held territories cut off from air access due to more than 12 years of civil war; these areas also have intermittent overland access through Türkiye—access that was disrupted by infrastructure damage caused by the earthquakes themselves. And in Türkiye, last-mile logistics proved challenging, with impacted cities and towns located far from major commercial airports and roads severely damaged by the quakes.

Despite these significant logistical challenges, Airlink mobilized its airline, logistics, and NGO partner networks to move over 1,000 tons of aid, providing reliable logistics and cargo transport services to 10 NGO partners over the course of the response. Airlink’s incredible impact was made possible by invaluable airline partnerships with American Airlines, Qatar Airways, United Airlines, UPS Foundation, Virgin Atlantic, and new airline partners MNG Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, and Turkish Airlines.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without our corporate and foundation supporters who have played an instrumental role in this response. We are grateful for the generous contributions from donors such as Air Lease Corporation, SMBC Aviation Capital, Routes, The Points Guy/Lonely Planet, Stratos, Edmonton International Airport, Castlelake, BOC Aviation, Aircastle, and Food for the Poor

Airlink also extends a heartfelt thank you to all of our individual donors, including those who generously contributed through Family and Community Foundations, CNN Impact Your World, Schwab Charitable & Fidelity Charitable Donor Advised Funds, and Workplace Giving & Matching Campaigns. With the support of our donors, Airlink has been able to provide our NGO partners with over $3 million in transportation savings.

Airlink’s Türkiye-Syria program marks our second-largest response to date and highlights the incredible impact of collaboration across our airline, logistics, and NGO partner networks. Together, we have overcome barriers to aid transport and delivery, allowing us to reach over 600,000 people in need and make the impossible possible. 


Picture of Yasmine Eldaief

Yasmine Eldaief

As Airlink’s Humanitarian Program Manager for the Middle East & North Africa, Yasmine works to develop NGO partnerships that support Airlink’s regional response capacity following disasters and amidst emergencies in the region.

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