WASHINGTON — Following the devastating earthquakes that struck southeastern Turkey and northern Syria on February 6, the United States has announced plans to provide $50 million in Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Funds (ERMA) and $50 million in humanitarian assistance to the affected regions. The total amount of U.S. humanitarian aid for the response to the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria now totals $185 million to date.
In addition to the emergency funds, the United States has also sent aid through its federal agencies and partner organizations. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is providing assistance in southern Turkey with a Disaster Assistance and Response Team, which includes emergency managers, construction riggers, hazardous materials technicians, licensed engineers and emergency medicine physicians, logisticians, paramedics, planners, search-and-rescue specialists, and search-and-rescue dogs with handlers. The most highly trained Urban Search and Rescue Teams are also providing support for Turkish rescue efforts in Adiyaman, one of the hardest-hit areas.
In Syria, the United States is working with local partners such as the White Helmets, who have rescued over 2,900 survivors from the rubble, and U.S.-supported Syrian medics who have been treating survivors in Idlib, Aleppo, and other affected areas. White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a volunteer organization that operates in parts of opposition-controlled Syria and Turkey. Founded in 2014, the group has been praised for its efforts to rescue civilians in the midst of the Syrian Civil War, but it has also been criticized by the Syrian government who accuse the group of having ties to terrorist organizations.
U.S. military helicopters are transporting rescue personnel to areas where they are most needed, and the U.S. Navy has repositioned naval vessels to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea to provide logistics, medical, and rotary air lift support as necessary to support the needs identified by the Turkish government. U.S. military aircraft have also airlifted about 18 metric tons of critical relief supplies from Adana’s Incirlik airfield to local Turkish government authorities for distribution to earthquake-affected populations.
The State Department and USAID are also working with UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency assistance in Türkiye and Syria, including hot meals, water, medical care and supplies, non-food items such as blankets, clothes, and hygiene kits, temporary shelter, and structural engineers. They are also providing essential mental health and psychosocial support, particularly to affected children and other vulnerable individuals.
U.S. NGOs have been providing valuable assistance, and the U.S. private sector has donated over $66 million to support the relief and recovery efforts.
The United States has committed to expanding humanitarian access to all affected areas of Syria. The Department of the Treasury has issued a broad General License to provide additional authorizations for disaster relief assistance to the Syrian people, underscoring that U.S. sanctions will not prevent or inhibit providing humanitarian assistance in Syria.
U.S. officials have remained in regular coordination with Turkish counterparts and UN leadership on how to best support their efforts. This includes calls between President Biden and President Erdogan, Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, and UN Secretary-General Guterres, and Secretary Austin and Defense Minister Akar to relay offers of assistance and discuss how the United States can continue to assist during this crisis.