Support earthquake survivors

19 June 2023

Now, there is a way for you to help earthquake survivors directly. Victims of the earthquake that killed over 50,000 people in Turkey and more than 8,000 in Syria at the beginning of February are still grappling with the aftermath of the tragedy. With their homes, schools and infrastructure destroyed, tens of thousands of people are still struggling to meet their basic needs. You can help through the platform Pay it Forward.

The platform, accessible here, lets you directly purchase food or hygiene packages to provide survivors with their daily needs. You can select ‘English’ via the button on the top of the page to switch the language of the site. Then, simply choose between a food or hygiene package, select the supermarket you wish to purchase from, and make a payment to send the package directly to those in need.

The earthquake

When the tragic earthquake hit Turkey, Dario Nardella, President of Eurocities and Mayor of Florence declared, “The time when all the spotlights and the news headlines will go quiet, this is the time that we have to be ready for.” Now that time has come, and his words have been proven true. News reports have switched to the upcoming Turkish elections, and any mention of the earthquake is limited to its expected effects on election results.

In the meantime, on the ground, tens of thousands of people are still living in temporary housing without work, separated from their families, and with no idea how they will begin to rebuild their lives. The death toll, too, continues to steadily rise.

Earthquake devistation in Turkey

City-to-city support began as soon as news of the earthquake first spread, but it hasn’t died down with the headlines. Eurocities will tap into the experience of its ‘Sustainable rebuilding of Ukrainian cities’ project to coordinate support with and for Turkish municipalities throughout the network. This will include continued emergency support, but also collaboration around long-term sustainable rebuilding of devastated areas.

Turkish cities have, and continue to provide extensive support to earthquake survivors. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has deployed 7,872 employees and volunteers to the region to provide various services including search and rescue; water, sanitation and hygiene operations; food and supply distribution; and damage assessment. They have also set up 8,766 tents and 162 containers in the area. A total of 1,469 search and rescue personnel were deployed, rescuing 561 people alive from the rubble.

Additionally, Istanbul provided funeral services, city infrastructure and transportation support, and ferry services, with the Orhangazi Humanitarian Aid and Life Centre Ferry accommodating 5,080 earthquake victims. Social aid was provided through 677 aid vehicles and 95 containers with hygiene products, blankets, stoves, food, bottled water, and generators. The district municipalities of Istanbul sent 628 trucks, while other cities and their district municipalities sent 1,976 aid trucks to Hatay. Aid vehicles were also sent to Adıyaman, Gaziantep, and Kahramanmaraş.

Direct support

Pay It Forward (Turkish: Askıda Fatura) is an award-winning digital platform that enables direct, peer-to-peer assistance without the need for intermediaries. The platform was developed by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to facilitate relief efforts for families struggling with bills during the Covid pandemic, anonymously pairing people who are struggling to pay their utility bills with others willing to help.

Expression of solidarity in Munich

The platform’s flexibility allows additional support modules to be put in place when needed, such as extra support packages for certain vulnerable groups. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality contributes by identifying and verifying people who are in need, creating a trusted bridge between these individuals and kind strangers who are willing to lend a helping hand. Meanwhile, the uniquely direct form of philanthropy eliminates any possibility of fraud by intermediaries.

The original version of the platform was focused on families with a household income of under $100 per person, who can upload their utility bill information to the system. Then, those who want to assist others can pay for the bills. Donors can also choose to provide cash support to help eligible families, mothers with newborns, and students.

Having proven highly successful in Turkey, this approach has been replicated in over 36 cities.

Pay it Forward in your city?

To date, the platform has generated more than $10,000,000 in support for those in need. It has been recognised by the OECD and Eurocities, and it has received wide national and international media coverage, appearing in stories by Bloomberg News, Associated Press and others.

Istanbul is now teaming up with Bloomberg Philanthropies to reach out to city administrations around the world, and demonstrate how Pay It Forward can benefit their cities’ and leadership. Interested cities can reach out via the platform’s website to assess it’s technical compatibility and learn about use cases depending on the local social, economic and cultural context.


Anthony Colclough Eurocities Writer