Destruction from the earthquake in Aleppo. Picture: Tareq Manadili/ NRC

Syria earthquake one month on: Families struggle, funding dangerously slow

Published 06. Mar 2023
Syrians are grappling with rising displacement and severe trauma one month after the earthquake while funding that has been released to support the aid response remains alarmingly slow, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

NRC’s field teams and other agencies have reported a constant rise in displacement as Syrians remain in collective shelters and on the streets. Trauma from multiple earthquakes and aftershocks has had a detrimental impact on children’s emotional wellbeing across affected areas in the country.

“My colleagues in Syria describe a worsening humanitarian crisis on the back of a natural disaster. Some people have to survive on a bag of bread and tinned food, which is all they have received this past month. Displacement continues to rise as people take refuge in collective shelters.” said Carsten Hansen, NRC’s Middle East Regional Director. “The world can’t stand by and watch Syrians go hungry, cold and displaced in circumstances like this after enduring 12 years of crisis.”

Funding has so far fallen short of the immediate needs of Syrians. As of 1 March, less than half of the nearly $400 million that the UN says are needed for Syria has been provided by donors. Funding to NGO first responders has continued to be slow and inadequate. The UN humanitarian fund for the pre-earthquake crisis has also been under-funded, threatening a rise in humanitarian needs. Without further resources, Syria will be unable to recover from these multiple crises. The EU and Sweden have announced a donor conference to help earthquake-hit populations on 16 March.

“The actions of the international community will be put to the test as donors meet to announce their funding support to Syria at the EU-hosted donor conference. This is the moment when donors must turn a corner and provide aid to people waiting in desperation. Show solidarity and provide the financial support without delay,” said Hansen.

A mother in northern Syria told NRC teams that her family and children are so anxious about losing each other in the event of a new earthquake that they are not leaving their tent.

“Small children now talk about death,” said Raja who, after spending the two first nights on the streets, is staying with her family in a tent for the first time in ten years. “They have seen in their short lives what their grandparents hadn’t in their entire lives. They keep asking ‘are we going to die?’ Adults, let alone children, still can’t quite understand what happened.”

Another mother described the conditions in a collective shelter in Aleppo.

“There are nine families in my room, so around 45 people are staying here. We sleep in shifts, those who work in the morning, sleep at night and when they leave to work others sleep. I get only three hours of sleep per day. We do everything in shifts here, sleeping, eating, going to the bathroom.”

NRC is responding in Aleppo, Lattakia, Homs, Hama and Idlib, supporting collective shelters and those displaced in communities in the Northwest. The conditions in these shelters remain poor with women having to take long walks and stand in queues in order to use bathroom facilities. Overcrowding in camps and collective shelters poses long-term health and protection risks.

Mental health support, urgent shelter as well as rehabilitation of destroyed buildings and infrastructure are needed to help Syrians recover from the aftermath of this disaster.  

Notes to editors:

  • NRC works across Syria. In the first month following the devastating earthquake, NRC assisted over 60,000 people with winter items, water supply, psychosocial support, hygiene kits, cash support among other forms of assistance. The needs, however, continue to grow amid a deepening economic crisis.
  • Thousands of buildings are estimated to have been damaged across Syria, affecting 8.8 million people according to UN figures. Over 105,000 people are displaced.
  • The World Bank estimates the total physical damage in Syria to cost $5.1 USD billion.
  • Only 15% of the funding needed for the earthquake response in Syria has been released, according to UNOCHA funding figures.
  • Based on NRC’s initial rapid assessment conducted in 31 collective shelters in Aleppo, 45% of the collective shelter managers reported that most or some of the residents had lost their Identity Documents.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

  • Ahmed Bayram, Regional Media and Communications Adviser, Middle East Regional Office:, +962 7 9016 0147
  • NRC global media hotline:, +47 905 62 329