Dismal conditions in shelters as hundreds of thousands of people in Syria and Türkiye lack water and basic sanitation

Published: 17th February 2023

Hundreds of thousands of people, among those who lost their homes in the massive earthquakes that hit Türkiye and Syria ten days ago, are now crammed into temporary shelters with insufficient clean water or toilets. 

In some shelters in Aleppo, Syria, as many as 150 people are having to share a single toilet. Women and children are disproportionally affected. One woman told Oxfam she had to hold herself for 24 hours sometimes so she doesn’t have to use the only available toilet. “There is no privacy or dignity.”  

Moutaz Adham, Country Director of Oxfam in Syria, said: “Cholera cases, which were already on the rise even before the earthquake, could surge given the scarcity of proper sanitation facilities in overcrowded mosques and temporary camps. It is vital that we stop people dying from preventable disease.” 

In Türkiye, only a small part of the government’s planned shelter containers has been installed so far, leaving hundreds of thousands of families in small temporary shelters, some with hardly any water taps or toilets.  

Oxfam KEDV in Türkiye is working through a network of women’s organizations and cooperatives, volunteers, and public authorities to facilitate the setting up of shelters and tents, and to distribute food, clean water, showers, toilets, hygiene products, and blankets.  

Oxfam KEDV’s partners are also providing survivors with information on where to get support and creating safe spaces for women and children.  

Syrian refugees in the affected areas in Türkiye have already endured years of multiple displacements. “We don’t think about the future... we are only surviving”, Aziza Ahmet, a Syrian refugee single mother of three, told Oxfam. 

In Türkiye, Oxfam’s operation with its partner network aims to reach 1.4m people in the most affected areas, including by restoring water and sanitation systems, ensuring access to food, and supporting people to rebuild their businesses by providing training, mentoring, and financial support.  

In Syria, Oxfam is currently providing water and hygiene kits in Aleppo with the aim to reach over 26,000 people. The team has begun fixing water taps and toilets for over 1000 families, and support safety checks to 220 buildings. 

“We are running against the clock to help. The scale of need is massive. Oxfam is planning to scale up of our operations to reach 300,000 of the most affected people with lifesaving food, clean water, sanitation and cash,” said Adham. 

Contact information

Deniz Günhan in Turkiye | dgunhan@kedv.org.tr  | +90 212 249 15 08 
Dania Kareh in Syria | dkareh@oxfam.org.uk | 963 958001242
Nesrine Aly in the UK | nesrine.aly@oxfam.org | +447503989838 

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