A man carries home WFP food in Idlib, Syria where the Turkiye-Syria earthquakes complicate an acute humanitarian crisis. © WFP/Photo Library
By Matthew Stevens and Elizabeth Bryant, WFP
The World Food Programme (WFP) is reaching hundreds of thousands of people in Türkiye and Syria with urgently needed food assistance, with plans to scale up sharply and support more than 900,000 people—if critical funding comes through—following the devastating earthquakes that struck along the border between the two countries on February 6.
“Thousands of lives have been lost,” WFP’s Executive Director David Beasley said on Twitter, “but our teams are on the ground.” Within 24 hours, WFP was among the communities affected, providing hot meals and ready-to-eat rations.
The food being distributed requires no cooking and provides immediate relief for families whose precarious position is made worse by freezing temperatures.
In Türkiye, which hosts the world’s largest refugee population, WFP plans to provide millions of meals to quake-affected people through local soup kitchens, as well as family food packages to tens of thousands of refugees and displaced Turkish nationals.
In Syria, the disaster has further complicated an acute humanitarian crisis. Estimates suggest that at least six million people have been affected by the quakes. In the first 36 hours, WFP teams were on the ground in the crisis zone providing hot meals and ready-to-eat rations to 40,000 people surviving in the bitter cold.
The country’s hard-hit northwest urgently needs more WFP food delivered swiftly—and for all parties to facilitate humanitarian access to reach all people who need support.
“One of our biggest challenges right now is not the transport, it’s not the food—it’s access,” said WFP Syria Country Director Kenn Crossley. “Some of the people hardest to reach are in places where there is ongoing conflict. We need to be able to reach them.”
Even before the disaster hit, 4.1 million people in northwest Syria—more than 90 per cent of the population—depended on humanitarian aid. Twelve years of conflict have displaced almost three million people from their homes and left them living in precarious conditions.
“A region plagued by years of compounding crises faces yet another one, with unimaginable loss and destruction,” said WFP Regional Director in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Eastern Europe Corinne Fleischer. “WFP’s strong footprint in both countries enabled us to immediately mobilize our staff, logistics capacity and partners to respond to people’s most immediate food needs.”
WFP is appealing for US$50 million to support 900,000 vulnerable people in Türkiye and Syria—including those newly displaced and thousands of refugees.
WFP mourns all the lives lost in this tragedy, including one of its own staff members.
Canada is one of WFP’s most important donors globally. Their continued support has enabled WFP to respond to the earthquakes with timely and critical injections to our life-saving response in Syria and Türkiye. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization fighting hunger and building resilience around the world. In 2022, WFP worked to save and change the lives of more than 140 million people in over 120 countries and territories.
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George Stroumboulopoulos speaking with a family in Syria © Courtesy of the World Food Programme By Allie Murray Since the onset of COVID-19 and now