Türkiye and Syria: Providing crucial services in the wake of massive earthquakes

A pair of catastrophic earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria on 6 February, killing thousands of people and injuring many more, with the numbers expected to rise as rescuers scramble to pull survivors from the rubble in freezing conditions. Among the millions of people who have been affected: tens of thousands of pregnant women who need access to maternal health services.

“UNFPA is committed to support the people of Türkiye and Syria affected by the earthquakes, including the pregnant women who are expected to give birth in the coming weeks under these difficult conditions,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, the Executive Director of UNFPA. “Their ability to access quality care before, during and after delivery must not be an afterthought.”

The initial 7.7 magnitude earthquake struck in the early hours of the morning while people slept, with the second 7.6 magnitude quake hitting later in the day amid a series of aftershocks, compounding the devastation. The governments of both Türkiye and Syria have declared national emergencies and called for international support.

UNFPA, which has operations in the affected areas, was immediately on the ground assessing the impact and preparing to support the emergency response in coordination with authorities and partners. Thousands of buildings, including UNFPA-supported safe spaces for women and girls, were severely damaged or destroyed. UNFPA’s urgent priority is to restore services that are crucial to the health and well-being of women and girls.

Despite the logistical challenges, UNFPA has begun providing reproductive health services to survivors in Türkiye, in addition to distributing dignity kits that contain basic hygiene items.

In Syria, survivors are receiving blankets and warm clothes as well as dignity kits, while mobile health teams and field clinics have been deployed to provide reproductive health and protection services in the worst-hit areas.

“The lives of so many people have been torn apart,” said Dr. Kanem. “Amidst the devastation and uncertainty that natural disasters bring, UNFPA will continue to do what is needed and what it does best: respond to women’s and girls’ emergency healthcare and protection needs.”