Earthquake Aftermath on Women and Girls in Syria and Türkiye

Disaster struck the northwest region of Syria and Southeast Türkiye on February 6, 2023. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc and destruction, with over 300 aftershocks including a magnitude 6.5 earthquake on February 20. The official death toll is over 50,000 and continues to rise.

For Northwest Syria, this is adding to the 12-year history of war, with around 4.2 million displaced people living in temporary shelters. Many are also living as refugees in Türkiye, which has the largest refugee population in the world and are left in an especially vulnerable situation. Women have had to bear increased responsibility for supporting their families, with over a fifth of households headed by females according to the UN in 2020. Already before the earthquake, there were over 7 million women and girls who needed healthcare and protection against gender-based violence, and an increase in child marriage, while the health sector was 60% underfunded.

The temperatures at this time of year have been freezing, which adds to the risk, and other complications of the quake include a burst dam in the Orontes River, Northwest Syria. This led to around 7,000 people being evacuated as 1,000 homes were destroyed, bringing a risk of waterborne disease.

The UNFPA, which is the sexual and reproductive health branch of the UN, estimates that there are more than 226,000 pregnant women in Türkiye, and 130,000 in Syria, who need urgent access to health care, with almost 40,000 expected to deliver within the next month.

Women and girls are among the most vulnerable after a humanitarian emergency, studies have shown. They are at risk of violence and exploitation, and basic needs such as gynecological care and period products are inaccessible. Living in tents, emergency shelters, or cars with a lack of privacy adds to menstrual health challenges. There is a stigma around menstruation, which has been considered taboo in countries like Türkiye and Syria, and access to sanitation systems, clean water, toilets, or other facilities. Aid workers handing out supplies are often men, with women and girls hesitant to say that they need menstruation products.

Following the earthquake, there is a high-risk environment where gender inequalities are increased. Domestic violence has increased for women and girls, and child marriage is again a huge concern. This adds to mental health challenges, as many were already at breaking point already before the earthquake. This creates a multi-layered, complex trauma, with effects on children including anxiety, fear, and sleep deprivation, who can suffer from long-term social, emotional, and physical complications.

Because of this, a high priority needs to be on giving aid to women and girls who need it the most. The UNFPA has sent mobile health clinics to provide reproductive health supplies and medicines for women in the areas most affected.

Where to Donate

The UNHCR has launched an appeal focused on providing emergency items, including tents, blankets, and hygiene and menstrual products. Medicine Sans Frontiers is working in Türkiye, while the Syrian American Medical Society is working in Syria to provide urgent medical care. Organizations focusing on children include Save the Children and UNICEF, who are working to support aid and recovery in affected areas.  Care International has a gender analysis policy following the earthquake, as they are aware that women and girls are impacted more, and therefore, their response is targeted to help those most vulnerable.

– Aimee Vulinovich


‘Want to stay up-to-date? Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter
Interested in volunteering with CFG? Let us know
Not able to come to join us in Thailand yet? Consider donating
Not able to donate today? Look for opportunities in your community to work against gender-based violence and human trafficking, as these are universal issues.

Also keep updated on: