One year after the earthquake in Syria: How did Dorcas support those in need

One year ago, on the 6th of February, earthquakes and strong aftershocks caused great devastation in Syria and Turkey. Syria, already in crisis due to the ongoing conflict, was again hit by a disaster that affected thousands of its citizens. The earthquake caused widespread damage to infrastructure and civilian buildings in the governorates of Aleppo, Hama, Idleb and Lattakia. 

Dorcas had been working in Syria for many years when the earthquake struck. This meant that our local staff were able to respond immediately, resulting in a strong presence on the ground. In the past year, Dorcas provided ongoing food security and livelihood support, shelter assistance, MHPSS and protection services, as well as essential non-food items. The infographic below shows a summary of the support that Dorcas provided in the region: 

Food Security and Livelihoods and Shelter  

Dorcas has had a local presence in north-west Syria for years, around the cities of Aleppo and Homs. These regions have struggled with food insecurity long before the earthquake struck. The new disaster exacerbated this problem. In the aftermath of the earthquake, the availability of basic commodities was limited. With cold temperatures, especially at night, it was imperative that people had access to a safe and warm environment and a decent meal, and this was therefore a top priority in the disaster response. Dorcas Syria supported 57,805 people with (hot) meals, food parcels, lunches or food vouchers over the past year. In addition, we provided shelter assistance to 1,546 people.  

MHPSS and Protection services.  

The earthquake and aftershocks had an enormous impact on people’s lives and general wellbeing. In such a crisis, the provision of MHPSS is vital because the enormous amount of stress that people experienced could lead to a range of other complaints. Providing this has been a major priority for the team over the past year. Dorcas already had a MHPSS support team on the ground, consisting mainly of social workers and psychologists, and was able to provide MHPSS and protection services to 20,318 people in the past year.  

Non-Food Items 

After the disaster, there was also a great need for non-food items, such as clothes and blankets. In the past year, Dorcas reached 57,976 people with this support.  

What is needed in the coming year(s)? 

The suffering in Syria must not be forgotten. After the earthquake, there was a resurgence of attention to the needs of the Syrian people, but that attention has slowly faded. At the moment, however, the situation in Syria is worse than it was before the earthquake. Compounding the situation is the enormous inflation that the country is experiencing. An UN OCHA 2024 Humanitarian Needs Overview for Syria estimates that some 16.7 million people across Syria will require humanitarian assistance in 20241. According to the Dutch Relief Alliance multi-sectoral needs assessment done during August and September 2023, there are many needs in different fields, that require the attention of the humanitarian sector2. These needs are for example:  

  • A large percentage of households struggle with poor food consumption (e.g. 64.6 per cent in Aleppo).  
  • Of those who participated in the assessment, 86.3 per cent rely on temporary or unstable daily work as the best source of income for their household.   
  • Mental health is still a major concern. Children and first responders in particular are experiencing burnout and distress. Several reports point to the need for MHPSS due to the extreme trauma and stress caused by the earthquake.  
  • In the areas identified in the assessment, there are significant protection risks and concerns for girls and women, e.g. forced and early marriages, harassment, sexual exploitation, domestic violence and child neglect. 
  • The deteriorating economy, living conditions, inflation and increased fuel prices, which led to increased prices of medicines, create a number of barriers for people to access health services.    

Dorcas will continue to be on the ground in Syria, providing support to those in need. Najla Chahda, Country Director of Dorcas Syria, describes Dorcas’ priorities for this year:

1Syrian Arab Republic: 2024 Humanitarian Needs Overview (December 2023) 

2 Dutch Relief Alliance: Joint Multi-Sectoral Needs Assessment (2023). 

06 February 2024

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