Since the devastating earthquake of August 17, 1999, which killed over 17,100 people and left some 44,000 injured, over 1300 tremors have made aftershocks a regular occurrence in and around the affected area in northwestern Turkey. In recent days the frequency of the tremors increased significantly, culminating in a new earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale on Friday, November 12, 1999. The epicenter was 100 km east of Izmit, a city severely damaged by the earlier quake and the location of a refinery fire that burned for days afterwards.
After the August quake, working in partnership with a local organization, Cagdas Yasami (The Foundation to Support Contemporary Life), Save the Children's relief efforts were quickly implemented in the devastated communities near "ground zero" - Izmit, Degirmendere, Golcuk, Adapazari, and Yalova, part of which sank into the sea. Today, Cagdas Yasami again is inside the quake zone, this time in the Duzce region, where the November 12 earthquake killed over 500 children and families and where emergency relief activities are under way.
Turkish children have been traumatized not only by the earthquakes and aftershocks but also by the reactions of their families and the people around them. As is so typical and so tragic in a disaster of this magnitude, many of their parents and adults are in shock themselves and are unable to adequately look after their children and help them recover. From the start, Save the Children helped fill this void, by addressing children's emotional as well as physical needs so that their sense of well-being eventually is restored.
In the aftermath of the first earthquake, Save the Children and Cagdas Yasami established children's and women's social rehabilitation centers that offer relief and assistance to some 200 children per day. The centers are staffed by teams of child psychiatrists, doctors, physiotherapists, and nurses, all of whom are Turkish volunteers. Nurses and doctors provide medical supplies, food, trauma treatment, examinations, and physical therapy. Other volunteers organize such activities as painting, reading, music, sports, games, and acting that help return children's lives return to normal in a safe and secure environment.
The Cagdas Yasami team is:
- Organizing the victims themselves into self-help groups.
- Arranging for group trauma counseling, emotional healing activities), and other efforts that seek to ease children back into their normal environment as quickly as possible.
- Conducting relief distributions through our rehabilitation centers and through the schools. In Adapazari, one of the most severely affected cities, tents, a generator, heaters, a refrigerator, battery-operated lights, art supplies for the children, and plastic tables and chairs were distributed, while in the Golcuk (the earthquake's epicenter) and Izmit areas, clothing, boots, school bags, and uniforms have been distributed - distributions that become increasingly important as cold season begins.
The Save the Children - Cagdas Yasami team now is in the hard-hit Duzce region, assessing the effects of the latest earthquake and developing programs for children, including possible replication of the rehabilitation centers. Save the Children plans to continue to support rehabilitation of children, families, and communities throughout the next six months through projects that include:
- Prefabricated villages.
- Housing units complete with rehabilitation centers and facilities.
- School dormitories.