Syrians in Turkey’s earthquake zone grapple with outbreaks and poor living conditions 

An aerial picture shows snow covering a camp for internally displaced Syrians in the Khirbet al-Joz area, in the west of the northwestern Idlib province near the border with Turkey, on February 5, 2023. Aaref WATAD / AFP

Syrian refugees in Turkey’s earthquake zone are contending with contagious diseases and poor living conditions, the Duvar news website reported

Speaking to journalist Burcu Özkaya Günaydın, Syrians said they had suffered heavy losses in the massive earthquakes that hit southeastern Turkey in early February. “Every [Syrian] family [living in the tent cities] has lost a close family member,” said a Syrian refugee named Abu Ahmed. “We have witnessed war, destruction, earthquakes and death. What else is there to see?”

Ahmed lost his 4-year-old daughter, Verde, in the earthquake. His wife and three other children are currently under treatment for injuries sustained in the disaster. Ahmed and many other Syrians are living in tent cities in the Narlıca district of Hatay province. 

These tent cities were not established by Turkish authorities or Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) but rather are makeshift tents that Syrians set up themselves. As a result Syrians in these tent cities have restricted access to proper toilets, showers and water. 

“We made a makeshift bath that is basically a separate tent where we heat water and wash ourselves,” said Ahmed. “Of course, it’s not practical, and our children are constantly sick because our living conditions are unhygienic. We share this so-called bath with 40 to 45 other people, so we can’t wash frequently.” 

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on Monday was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

Amid the destruction experts have warned of contagious disease outbreaks in the region due to a lack of hygiene and restricted access to water. As summer approaches and temperatures rise, the need for proper accommodation has become urgent. 

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