24 May 2023

Turkey and Syria continue the long road to recovery after the devastating earthquakes and aftershocks that hit the region on 6 February 2023.

The first tremor on the border of Turkey and Syria registered magnitude 7.8, followed by a 6.7 magnitude aftershock only 11 minutes later (United States Geological Survey, 2023). This resulted in a massive loss of life and property. More than 50,000 people perished, including ‘45,968 confirmed deaths in Turkey and 7,259 in Syria’ (Relief Web International, 2023). 

With The Salvation Army not being registered as a non-government organisation (NGO) in either Turkey or Syria, the international church and charity decided to invest significant funds specifically donated to this disaster in partnerships with other registered NGOs already on the ground in the region.

Through relationships already in place, The Salvation Army was able to almost immediately partner with ZOA International (registered in The Netherlands) and Convoy of Hope (registered in the United States of America).

Partnership with ZOA International

ZOA, a Christian NGO, has been active in Syria since 2015 but through local partners in the beginning. In 2018, ZOA became officially registered in Syria and established an office in Damascus. Since February 2022, ZOA Syria has been operating in the northern governorates from an office in Aleppo. ZOA has worked with communities affected by crisis and responds to priority needs for the most vulnerable households.

This ZOA response, including funds received from The Salvation Army, has reached 16,850 people in Aleppo and Latakia, providing ready-to-eat food parcels. In Aleppo, 22,325 people received a jerry can and soaps, and 13,750 people are targeted for Multipurpose Cash assistance. ZOA engineers also participated in the assessment of affected houses and rehabilitated 10 shelters to provide them with WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities (ZOA International, 2023).

Additionally, ZOA shared with The Salvation Army some personal stories of survivors. One such story is that of a 57-year-old Syrian man named Subhi.

Subhi speaks to a representative from ZOASubhi (right) speaks to a representative from ZOA (Photo ©Lieuwe Siebe de Jong)

The apartment in Aleppo where he lived before the earthquake with his two adult daughters, has been declared uninhabitable. ‘We were sleeping when our house started to dance,’ he says. ‘My daughters ran up the street, trying to find someone to help me.’

Subhi is in a wheelchair and had difficulty getting out of the apartment building. ‘There was such a huge panic on the street. Everyone was screaming for help.’ And yet … help arrived. Subhi was rescued. ‘I was just able to grab my identity card,’ he says. ‘Then we spent the rest of the day outside in the rain. No one dared to hide under anything. There were so many aftershocks.’

Subhi and his daughters soon found shelter in a Syrian Orthodox church, which has been set up as a shelter for about 200 people. ZOA employees and a local organisation provide mattresses, blankets and hot meals there. Subhi also helps. In his wheelchair, he prepares emergency aid kits for fellow citizens who have also been affected by the earthquake. His daughters volunteer at another shelter (ZOA International, 2023).


Another touching story reported by ZOA brings to life the story of a 22-year-old named Hannah who has an intellectual disability.

Hannah at the shelter in Aleppo

The conflict in Syria has been going on for more than half of Hannah’s life and he knows and understands the effects of the war. When the earth began to shake, he immediately linked this to another air strike.

The family does not know if they can ever return to their home. ‘Our house is 75 per cent damaged,’ Hannah’s father says. He would like to have their house checked by an engineer to find out if it can be restored. The family will have to wait in the emergency shelter in Aleppo for this construction check. They are grateful for the assistance they receive in the shelter, that is being supported by ZOA with food and money for the operational costs.

Even though Hannah enjoys being around the other people who live in the shelter, he is looking forward to returning home. ‘The first thing I will be doing is watching television,’ he says. ‘I want to see the news and know what is happening.’ (ZOA International, 2023).

Partnership with Convoy of Hope

Through other partnerships in place with The Salvation Army in the United States, Salvation Army funds were allocated to a second Christian NGO, Convoy of Hope. Convoy of Hope’s strategic, multifaceted and holistic programmes go hand in hand with Salvation Army standards.

Convoy of Hope reports, ‘Thanks to Convoy of Hope’s incredible partners and donors, teams have served more than 140,000 individuals devastated by the earthquake that struck Turkey and Syria earlier this year. Families and individuals continue to receive lifesaving food, water and hygiene supplies’ (Convoy of Hope, 2023).

As reported by Convoy of Hope to the Salvation Army World Service Office in April 2023, Convoy of Hope has served 23,760 through the distribution of food kits, from which 237,600 individual meals have been provided.

Each family food kit provides essential products such as rice, lentils, beans, bulgur, pasta, flour and oil in the Turkish provinces of Sanliurfa, Gaziantep, Hatay, Adiyaman and Malatya.

Whether through our own vast international network or through exiting external partnerships, The Salvation Army continues to meet human needs in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, without discrimination. 

Report by Captain Matthew Beatty

Tags: Emergencies, News