In the middle of the night of Feb. 6, as families slept in their beds and a city slumbered, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred close to Gaziantep in southern Turkey, along the northern border of Syria. Beyond the aftershocks, an additional 7.5 magnitude quake occurred southwest of the city. The information and accompanying images coming out of Turkey and Syria are devastating, all the more as the after-effects of the earthquakes continue.

I have had the honor and privilege to have visited both Gaziantep, Turkey, and the northern border region of Syria multiple times. Over the coming days and weeks, the news stories will focus on the loss of life, families torn apart and the rubble resulting from the destruction. You will see and hear appeals for food, water, shelter and other emergency needs. And none of these are wrong. Yet the needs of affected people will far surpass what we see in the news. And these same people will need to be centered in the decisions made by the government, the UN and nonprofits regarding their response and recovery.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is monitoring the situation and advises that philanthropy explore helping in the following ways:

  • Go local. As I wrote in a recent article for Alliance Magazine, “The evidence of the benefits of locally-led action is indisputable: local organizations have a greater understanding of context, culture and affected communities. They are thus better placed to understand their needs and develop innovative solutions.”
  • Provide flexible funding. The needs will shift as more information is known and access improves. By trusting the organizations on the ground with your funds, you are providing them the ability to be nimble as the situation changes, especially if you give your support as cash.
  • Take the long view. This crisis is not going to be over in a news cycle. Grantmakers and donors need to support programming beyond the disaster event, beyond the immediate need. Support initiatives that look at the root causes of communities’ vulnerabilities.

The images of immediate destruction don’t fully capture the devastation brought about by the earthquake. The needs of affected communities and how best to support immediate relief and long-term recovery will vary and continue to develop in the weeks, months and years ahead.

Read the full article about supporting earthquake survivors in Syria and Turkey by Patricia McIlreavy at The Center For Disaster Philanthropy.