U.S. Pledges Long-Term Aid to Türkiye Along with $185 Million in Earthquake Relief
Author: Samantha Fanger
Feb 24, 2023
After the 7.8 magnitude earthquake on February 6 that shook the city of Antakya and its surrounding regions, devastating Türkiye and neighboring Syria, both countries worked tirelessly to carry out rescue efforts amidst the masses of rubble. As rescuers continue their search, the death count has risen so far to more than 47,000. As aftershocks continue to shake the ground beneath their feet, survivors are afraid to sleep in their homes, leaving millions to seek shelter in nearby Internally Displaced Persons camps. Türkiye has, in recent years, prioritized being an active donor in global humanitarian efforts. In its own time of crisis, the Turkish government has appealed for international aid for recovery, and the United States has committed to stepping in to help.
Within hours of the initial quake, the United States, in coordination with Türkiye and partner organizations in Syria, authorized action to support rescue and relief efforts. On February 19, the Biden Administration announced that it would offer an additional $50 million in Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Funds (ERMA) to aid in earthquake response efforts. In total, the United States has committed to providing $185 million in aid to Türkiye and Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made a timely visit to Türkiye on February 19, landing at the Incirlik Air Base as Turkish and American forces jointly coordinated cargo flights for daily relief supply shipments. On his visit, Blinken thanked aid workers and viewed the vast extent of the damage via helicopter with Türkiye's Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Having seen the devastation first-hand, Blinken promised that the United States would continue to provide support to its NATO ally, even during the longer-term recovery efforts: “The United States is here to support you in your time of need, and we will be by your side for as long as it takes to recover and rebuild,” Mr. Blinken pledged while visiting Ankara. In addition to discussing relief efforts promising additional aid, Blinken attended official meetings with Turkish leaders to discuss NATO and Ukraine.
On February 20, shortly after Secretary Blinken’s visit, Türkiye was hit by another two earthquakes of 6.4 and 5.8 in magnitude. The subsequent tremors killed at least three more people and left more than 200 injured. It is estimated that the earthquakes in Türkiye have left the country with about $84 billion in damages—a cost that is equivalent to 10 percent of Türkiye's entire economy in 2022.
In its commitment to carrying out “Humanitarian Foreign Policy” in recent years, the Turkish government and nonprofit groups have taken on a significant role in providing humanitarian relief throughout the world. In 2018, Türkiye was named as the biggest donor country for official humanitarian assistance in the world, according to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report. In that same year, Türkiye allotted 0.79 percent (about $ 8.399 billion) of its Gross National Income to humanitarian aid. The majority of this aid has been used to support the crises in neighboring Syria and Palestine, in addition to other national disasters that hit countries globally.
The more than one hundred countries that have offered aid after the earthquakes, in part, is a testament to their solidarity towards Türkiye and Ankara’s longstanding dedication to provide aid to others in years past. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price alluded to this in a statement saying that the United States would provide aid “just as Türkiye has so often contributed its own humanitarian rescue experts to so many other countries in the past.”