Churches appeal for aid as response to Turkey-Syria earthquake expands

Posted Feb 8, 2023

[Episcopal News Service] Faith-based and humanitarian groups across the world were setting in motion appeals for aid and prayers as response expands in the wake of the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey on Feb. 6, according to the World Council of Churches.

Churches in Syria are cooperating with the Middle East Council of Churches, which continues to call on the international community and the international ecumenical family to provide urgent emergency aid to the region, and is also urging the immediate lifting of sanctions on Syria to allow access to all materials, according to

Episcopal Relief & Development, the organization that coordinates The Episcopal Church’s response to human suffering in the world, is mobilizing with its long-term partners in the region to respond. For more information or to support the effort, click here.

“The reports from Turkey and Syria are heart-wrenching,” said Abagail Nelson, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Episcopal Relief & Development. “We have worked closely with ACT Alliance in our response to the crisis in Ukraine and we will continue to partner to meet the immediate needs of the affected communities in Turkey and Syria.”

Working through Action by Churches Together Alliance (ACT Alliance), Episcopal Relief & Development will rapidly respond to the disaster through existing networks by providing supplies including winterization kits, hot meals and other food, medicine and emergency support. The organization is also in contact with other local partners as they assess the needs of their communities.

Churches in Syria have started to provide direct relief to the affected people. Following the instructions of the Head of the Holy Land John X, patriarch of Antioch and the rest of Al-Mashriq, the Department of Housing Relations and Development continues its relief and emergency response work in the areas affected by the earthquake, the WCC reported.

In Hama, the department’s team visited both the National Hospital and the affected area in the Arbaeen district and provided meals to civil defense personnel and rubble removal workers, as well as to the injured, their families, and the medical staff at the hospital. The team conducted a needs survey of displaced people from Aleppo and Latakia arriving in Kafarbo region in Hama, providing food, drink, blankets, and clothes, as well as distributing food baskets to affected families in Al-Sqilbia and its countryside.

In Lattakia, the patriarchate team provided a large collection of medicines to the Tishrin University Hospital to treat the injured, food rations to the injured families arriving at the National Hospital, sets of winter clothing to the injured arriving at Assad University Hospital, and food rations at Al-Basil Shelter Center.

The team in Latakia also provided food rations to the arrivals to the halls of churches that opened their doors to receive those who lost their homes, children’s rations in the hall of Yassin Mosque, and a large number of blankets and meals to civil defense workers. The team also provided Jabla Hospital The Patriotic with blankets, sheets, sprayers, and emergency medicines.

In Aleppo, the team secured basic daily necessities to receive the affected families—an estimated 1,000 people—in the halls of Mar Elias Orthodox Church, in addition to securing relief supplies for the displaced people.

An engineering team in Aleppo began field visits to dozens of homes of affected families to provide assistance by repairing the cracks caused by the earthquake.

The ACT Alliance has issued an alert, calling for donations to support people in need.

As the scale of the disaster continues to be discovered, ACT members are checking in with their own staff teams, conducting rapid needs assessments, and already working to provide life-saving supplies to impacted people.

Plans are underway from other ACT members—in addition to those mentioned above—to supply winterization materials, ambulances, and other needed supplies as the extent of the need is known.

The Lutheran World Federation is calling for donations and is working with local partner CARITAS Syria.

The number of victims continues to rise as work is undertaken to rescue survivors trapped under rubble. Many buildings collapsed completely, including hospitals and other public facilities.

“What is being reported at this point may only be the tip of the iceberg,” said Allan Calma, Lutheran World Federation global humanitarian coordinator.

Search and rescue operations have started in the affected areas, a race against time as the temperatures in the region are below zero. There is a need for medical supplies, food, water, shelter and sanitation.

“Temperatures are dropping and it is snowing in much of the region, with freezing temperatures expected in the coming days,” Calma added. “Urgent access to shelter is a priority with many people fearing to shelter inside due to aftershocks. Reportedly, a lot of people are sleeping in cars and car parks.”

The situation is especially challenging in Northern Syria, a war-torn area that is not controlled by the government and is cut off from the usual aid mechanisms. The region has called for international help. Many aid organizations are affected as well, with staff and their families killed or missing.