Fatma Aslan Uçar (left) and Velat Özalp (far right) are committed national UN Volunteers who have played critical roles in OCHA's earthquake response and recovery efforts.
Fatma Aslan Uçar (left) and Velat Özalp (far right) are committed national UN Volunteers who have played critical roles in OCHA's earthquake response and recovery efforts.

Championing human solidarity as part of OCHA's emergency response team in Türkiye

In February 2023, a devastating earthquake struck southern Türkiye and northwestern Syria. Türkiye is still recovering after the earthquake which has affected 11 cities and over 15 million people severely. Over sixth months (March to August), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) was tackling humanitarian emergencies on the ground with the support of UN Volunteers. Fatma Aslan Uçar and Velat Özalp are two committed national UN Volunteers who have played critical roles in the UN's earthquake response and recovery efforts with OCHA.

"Immediately following the earthquake, the emotions I felt compelled me to actively participate in fieldwork and contribute in any way possible," says Velat. After the earthquake struck Türkiye on 6 February, Velat left Spain, where he was pursuing his master’s degree and came back to his home country, Türkiye, to help.

Velat serves as a national UN Volunteer Humanitarian Affairs Officer. OCHA’s motto is to bring humanitarian partners together to tackle humanitarian emergencies – which they certainly did during their earthquake response.

By developing collective plans and coordinating with various international organizations to coordinate humanitarian aid delivery, OCHA plays an integral role in meeting the needs of those affected by crises. Following the Türkiye-Syria earthquake, OCHA and other UN agencies provided shelter for over 1.9 million displaced individuals.

Witnessing the resilience of affected communities and the gratitude of those we helped were special moments that left a lasting impact. --Velat Özalp, national UN Volunteer Associate Humanitarian Affairs Officer with OCHA

Hailing from Adıyaman, Fatma emerged as a resilient survivor who stepped forward to offer her assistance in the search and rescue efforts. In the days following the earthquake, Fatma volunteered as a translator, leveraging her experience as an English teacher, before joining as a UN Volunteer to overcome language obstacles.

With an intimate understanding of the region, as well as a profound awareness of the survivors' requirements, local nuances and cultural intricacies, Fatma bridged these gaps effectively. As a volunteer, she supported OCHA's humanitarian response by contributing to field assessments and coordination efforts.

I think all these experiences not only contributed to the community that I continue to live in, they also helped me to recover. --Fatma Aslan Uçar, national UN Volunteer Humanitarian Affairs Officer with OCHA

The participation of volunteers likes Velat, Fatma and many others played a vital role during OCHA's response to the earthquake in Türkiye. UN Volunteers collaborated seamlessly, efficiently and willingly to provide support and exchange their knowledge and experiences.

They conducted field visits, engaged with local communities, analyzed their needs, participated in meetings with mukhtars, mayors, local and international non-governmental organizations and mobilized different partners to provide tents, beds, hygiene kits, food and more.

On the International Day of Human Solidarity (20 December), we recognized the remarkable resolve of UN Volunteers who play a vital role in the United Nations' response to crises. Their unwavering commitment and resilience have proven indispensable, aiding not only in the process of recovery, but also in facilitating emotional healing for those affected.

If you would like to become a volunteer and support humanitarian crisis response, peace and development, visit the Unified Volunteering Platform.

This article was prepared with the kind support of Online Volunteers Joshua de la Curie and Megan O'Neil. Find out more about how to become an Online Volunteer or engage Online Volunteers.