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GOAL and the EU extend vital aid to earthquake survivors in Northwest Syria


May 2, 2023 • 4 min read

With support from the European Union (EU), Irish international humanitarian agency GOAL is reaching thousands of disaster-affected families in Idlib and Northern Aleppo with humanitarian assistance after February’s devastating earthquakes.

After two devastating earthquakes hit Türkiye and Syria on February 6, causing unprecedented levels of humanitarian need, GOAL, in partnership with European Union Humanitarian Aid, has scaled up its emergency response in Northwest Syria to reach affected communities in Idleb and Northern Aleppo with life-saving assistance.

Thanks to an additional €2 million in EU humanitarian funds for RELIEF, the organization’s emergency humanitarian response project in Northwest Syria, GOAL has distributed one-off cash assistance to an additional 11,000 disaster-affected families since February.

“EU support to the earthquake response has been critical to ensure our humanitarian partners can also reach the affected families in Northwest Syria with much-needed relief. Cash assistance is helping the most vulnerable with their most urgent needs. The EU remains committed to providing Syrians with humanitarian assistance at a time of unprecedented needs across the country,” said Luigi Pandolfi, head of EU Humanitarian Aid operations in Syria.

In addition to scaling up its emergency response activities in Northwest Syria after the earthquakes, GOAL has also increased the protection support provided under the RELIEF project in partnership with Syrian NGO Shafak. GOAL and Shafak reached hundreds of women who lost their families in the disaster with assistance to help mitigate the gender-based violence risks they were facing.

“GOAL is grateful for the dynamic, long-term humanitarian partnerships we have built over the past decade with the EU and other international donors to implement aid programmes in Northwest Syria. Relying on this dynamism, we have promptly realigned our programmatic activities in Syria in response to the immediate needs that emerged after the earthquakes,” said Mary Van Lieshout, GOAL’s Deputy CEO and Director of External Affairs.

It is estimated that over 200,000 people in Northwest Syria were left homeless after February’s earthquakes. Around 4.5 million people, more than half of them displaced from their hometowns by the 12-year conflict, reside in this region, which stretches along the northern districts of Idleb and Aleppo provinces.

Camps and informal tented settlements hosting displaced families in Northwest Syria were home to over 1.8 million people prior to the earthquakes. These ‘last resort sites’ are stretched even thinner as a result of earthquake-related displacement movements. The declining availability of accommodation and services in tented settlements is increasing the risk of infectious disease outbreaks. Furthermore, pre-existing protection needs have been further exacerbated by the earthquakes, exposing women and girls to an increased risk of gender-based violence in reception and temporary accommodation centres.

Jeannie Zielinski, GOAL’s Syria Response Country Director, said: “Since the earthquakes, GOAL and other humanitarian agencies have been working around the clock to reach affected families with vital aid, but much more international support is needed to ensure that vulnerable communities are not left behind.” She added: “In the face of new displacement movements caused by the earthquakes, and the additional damages local infrastructure has suffered, longer-term solutions that can more reliably address shelter and clean water needs are urgently required.”

Thanks to the EU’s and other international humanitarian donors’ continuous financial support, since May 2022, under the third phase of GOAL’s RELIEF project in Northwest Syria:

  • More than 41,000 vulnerable families received cash-based aid to help them access heating fuel and other essential winter supplies through the coldest days of the year.
  • 33 water stations delivered clean water to over 60,000 households.
  • More than 24,000 families affected by the earthquakes were reached with cash assistance to help them meet immediate shelter, heating, and other emergency needs, while over 4,400 households who were impacted by flash flooding at tented displacement camps and informal settlements in Idleb and Northern Aleppo received cash-based aid.

Under the €15.5 million project, which concluded on May 1st, GOAL has also reached more than 500 women who survived or were at immediate risk of gender-based violence, providing them with first-line psychosocial support, cash assistance and referrals to specialist centres in partnership with Syrian NGO Shafak.

In RELIEF IV, the project’s next phase, GOAL aims to provide cash assistance to more than 20,000 people who were affected by the earthquakes and to rehabilitate a range of water and sanitation networks which served a catchment area of over 35,000 households prior to suffering damages in the earthquakes. RELIEF IV will reach more than 650,000 people with cash-based emergency aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene services and protection support between May 2023 and May 2024.