Earthquake Relief in Turkey: Update March 2000

Catholic Relief Services has committed over $1.8 million to in response to the Turkey Earthquakes. These funds, used in coordination with Caritas Turkey, provide emergency and long-term assistance to the Turkish people after the country's second earthquake in late 1999. The agency's is working with Christian, Muslim and secular local partners in both immediate relief and longer-term rehabilitation interventions.
"The needs for food, shelter, and longer-term reconstruction assistance are immense," said Michael Watt, Catholic Relief Services' Senior Team Leader for the Middle East and North Africa. The agency has identified strong and capable partners in Turkey to access, execute and evaluate activities that are aimed at addressing those most in need.

Hasan Abdul Salam's Personal Story

Near the fringes of the earthquake-ravished town of D=FCzce, there exists a small encampment of mostly poor Kurdish immigrants where Catholic Relief Services is currently providing two hot meals a day. Over 60 families are currently sheltered in makeshift plastic tarp tents that provide minimal protection from the fierce winter in northwestern Turkey.

Tucked among some large trees and embedded in one foot of winter snowfall lives Hasan Abdul Salem, a 60 year-old grandfather with his immediate family of ten people. Hasan and his wife Fatma, with and their extended family have been living in a tent ever since the 7.2 earthquake destroyed their home in November. The family's life saving were demolished under several tons of concrete, but more importantly says Hasan, "Allah protected us that evening and we remember this everyday despite our miserable condition."

On the same night of the earthquake, Hasan's family constructed a small shack and endured the bitter cold and rain until an army tent was provided for them 15 days later. "This has been the only government assistance we have received," says Hasan's 55 year-old wife, Fatma, in Kurdish. "If you (CRS) had not provided this food, everyone would have gone hungry because no one is coming to this area to help us. Thanks to God you (CRS) arrived."

Hasan and his family moved to D=FCzce 15 years ago from the eastern Turkish town of Agri and have no plans of moving from this area. As Hasan calmly remarks, "We have our home here, we have our lives here, we die here."

Specific Agency Activities:

Catholic Relief Services continues to work with Caritas Turkey, providing food and shelter to victims of both earthquakes. The funding has helped to: establish tent camps, provide food coupons to homeless families, erect wooden houses in Adapazari and Duzce, and rebuild 2 schools in the area. In addition, playgrounds will be built to provide safe places for children to play and continue their psychosocial rehabilitation.

The agency has provided 19,000 beds donated by the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) as well as assorted medical and hygienic supplies, which were distributed to families in camps by Caritas Turkey, El Hilal (a Macedonian Muslim organization) and the Turkish Red Crescent.

Catholic Relief Services committed over $925,000 to the International Blue Crescent, (IBC) a Turkish non-governmental organization, to provide hot meals to 5,500 earthquake victims in tent camps. Feeding will continue through April 2000, at which time the people will be transferred to more permanent shelters.

The agency is finalizing longer-term reconstruction and rehabilitation plans with various partners in Turkey. Initiatives in progress include school reconstruction with the IBC; the construction of student housing with Sakarya University in Adapazari. Additionally, the agency is co-funding the United Methodist Committee on Relief's (UMCOR) projects to repair a school for the deaf in Karamursel. This agency supports social and economic rehabilitation activities targeted at women.

Other feeding initiatives through Caritas Turkey's food coupon distribution project are still under consideration. Additionally, Catholic Relief Services has donated 5,000 gas heaters to families with young children and elderly members currently living in tents in D=FCzce. This collaborative intervention between Catholic Relief Services and the International Blue Crescent will allow earthquake victims to keep warm until the weather finally warms up.

Background of the Situation

The second earthquake in late 1999 was a 7.2 trembler and could be felt for miles from the epicenter at D=FCzce. It left more than 700 people dead, more than 5,000 people wounded and over 200,000 homeless.

Copyright=A91999 CRS