Report from Turkey

News and Press Release
Originally published
World attention may have drifted from the earthquake-ravaged region of Turkey since the last major quake struck three months ago, but Direct Relief is still actively involved in sending much-needed medical aid to the area. Program Officer Mike Hayes, just back from an assessment trip to Turkey, says he saw no evidence of any relief organizations other than Direct Relief and the Turkish Red Crescent in and around Ducze, site of the second earthquake. "Even the Turkish government is doing nothing for the people," Mike says, "other than bulldozing the damaged buildings, which are everywhere."
"Everyone I talked to had friends or relatives who had died," Mike says. A doctor at one of the hospitals he visited lost six aunts and a cousin. The cousin, a husband and father named Suat, was at home with his family when their apartment collapsed, trapping Suat and their young son in one section of the dwelling and his wife and daughter in another. They could talk to each other, even touch hands - but no more. The boy, badly injured, died after about two hours. Suat and his wife, grief-stricken and terrified, tried to console one another through the impassable barrier of the crumpled wallsé until ten hours later, when he died.

Half the population of the Duzce area is still homeless because of the earthquakes, and the main city hospital was destroyed. The lone surviving local hospital, a teaching facility at Abant Izzet Baysal University, has been overwhelmed by the increased demand. In just the first two weeks after the second quake, the hospital treated more than 2,000 injured people, 800 of whom required surgery. Direct Relief has sent the hospital a variety of medical goods, including surgical supplies and orthopedic items for treatment of trauma injuries.

One of the women Mike spoke with in one of the tent cities for survivors was a young mother, Gulten Han, whose apartment was rendered unlivable by the earthquake. Gulten was forced to live in a makeshift tent on the street for a month, along with her father, her mother, her five-year-old daughter Seda - and her baby girl Alger, who was only one week old at the time. A fire broke out in the tent and the infant was airlifted to a burn unit in an Ankara hospital, and has since recovered from her injuries. Mike says her mother, Gulten, told him that she wants to do more to help others in even more desperate straits than sheé but she has nothing left.

Direct Relief has so far sent ten shipments to help victims of the earthquakes in Turkey, amounting to well over $1 million worth of medical supplies such as antibiotics, surgical supplies, catheters, I.V. packs, crutches, splints, braces and slings. Although Direct Relief most often sends exclusively medical goods and equipment, some of the earlier shipments have also included basic survival supplies. Hundreds of tents, sleeping bags, blankets, flashlights, parkas, socks, gloves and all-weather clothing are among the items that have been sent.