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Navigating Life After the Earthquakes: Fatima’s Story


March 21, 2024 • 3 min read

Amidst the turmoil of Syria's ongoing conflict, many chose to remain in their homeland despite being displaced within the country. Fatima, a single parent, endured the darkness of war alongside her family for years. However, in 2016, with no other recourse, she sought refuge in Türkiye with her three children.

Tragically, Fatima lost her middle child, Ahmet, in a devastating traffic accident four years ago when he was just seven years old. Despite the grief of losing Ahmet, Fatima persevered, holding onto hope for her remaining sons, 11-year-old Mustafa and 23-year-old hearing-impaired Muhammet, in the city of Antakya.

Like the 3.6 million other Syrians seeking refuge in Turkiye, Fatima and her family, having fled one disaster, never anticipated facing another when the earthquake struck in February 2023. Reflecting on the challenges they endured, transitioning from one conflict to another, Fatima lamented,

“The war forced us from our homeland, and the earthquake from our home and loved ones…”

After the devastating earthquake, Fatima’s son, Muhammet, lost his pregnant wife and their two-year-old child.

Fatima explains her grandson’s death:

“We pulled his little body out of the rubble after four days. What could be more painful?” she asks.

Left homeless after their house was destroyed in the disaster, the family had to endure life on the streets, battling harsh winter conditions. Eleven-year-old Mustafa, Fatima’s youngest, in desire to help his mother and family, took on the responsibility of collecting recyclables (cartons and scrap metal) on the streets to earn some income.

Fatima reflected on this challenging period of her and her children’s lives; she said:

“My child was hungry. We were selling the cartons we collected from the streets.”

Fatima and her family suffered from hunger for a period after the earthquake, and in desperation, she applied to GOAL for humanitarian assistance.

“In GOAL, I saw an approach which reminded me that I am a human.”

Thanks to the protection-focused LINK project funded by the European Union, case management services were provided for Fatima and her family.

The family moved from Antakya to Reyhanlı after the earthquake. This necessitated updates to her family’s address registrations and Emergency Social Safety Net Programme (ESSN) application.

GOAL stepped in, providing vital legal counselling throughout the application process. GOAL also supported with market card assistance to the household. A sustainable protection intervention ensured the household had access to food until their ESSN applications were accepted. Authorities in Turkiye are focused on ensuring all people receive assistance, and support has been provided throughout the process.

School registration was completed for 11-year-old Mustafa, who did not attend school at the time. Fatima was facilitated with awareness-raising sessions on the harms of child labour, and Mustafa no longer had to work in dangerous conditions on the street. Instead, he attended school, where he was supposed to be. Throughout the school registration process, the authorities have provided support to ensure all kids have access to education and no generation is left behind.

Fatima explains the impact of the support she received from GOAL ;

“In GOAL, I saw an approach that reminded me I am human. For the first time, I felt like someone was helping me and trying to lessen my heavy burdens.”

Syrian single mother Fatima stands in displacement camp IN Türkiye

Syrian single mother Fatima in Türkiye

With financial support from the European Union, GOAL, in coordination with local authorities, sustains the protection interventions for the most vulnerable groups, such as seasonal agricultural workers and nomadic/semi-nomadic communities that are Doms, Abdals, Roms, Romans, etc, in the Southeast of Türkiye. However, sustaining this vital support for families enduring the hardships of displacement requires additional funds and donations.

Fatima says, “The assistance must continue.”

Story and Photos by Specialised Social Worker Semih Öztürk, Senior Safeguarding and Protection Monitoring Officer in GOAL Türkiye