Turkey: what UNICEF is doing Update 25 Jan 2000

Disaster in the Heartland
On 17 August and 12 November 1999, two earthquakes devastated the populated and industrial northwestern parts of Turkey. Although the exact number of deaths is unknown, the Turkish authorities report that over 18,000 people were killed and 49,000 people injured during both earthquakes. Although UNICEF and dozens of other relief organizations responded quickly to the disasters, the road to recovery has been littered with the unsettling and sometimes destructive aftershocks. At least 1,268 aftershocks were reported since following the original quakes.

The Present Challenge

The provision of shelter to approximately 176,000 earthquake victims during the winter is one of the greatest challenges facing an ongoing relief effort by the Turkish government and humanitarian agencies. At the start of 2000, an estimated 200,000 people were housed in approximately 130 tented camps and prefabricated cities in the affected areas.

Five provinces were the most hard hit, Kocaeli, Sakarya, Yalova, Bolu and Duzce. The Government of Turkey proposed three alternatives to meet the challenge of providing shelter to homeless populations: Provision of prefabricated houses for all affected families; a reconstruction subsidy of US$ 1,500 for families whose residences were lightly damaged; and allocation of a monthly rental subsidy of US$ 200 for each family moving to newly rented house.

As of 13 January, of 106,140 applicant families, 91,074 families were receiving rental subsidies at a monthly cost of US$ 18.2 million. It is foreseen that this amount will be reduced by half as people move into prefabricated houses. As of 18 January, more than 72,000 people had done so.

Still, more than 108,000 people remain in tents. With the exception of Sakarya and Yalova provinces, the population sheltered in tent camps in Kocaeli, Bolu and Duzce provinces is higher than the population sheltered in prefabricated houses. With winter in full force, the Turkish authorities continue to report a critical need for winterized tents.

The UNICEF Response

In consultation with the Government of Turkey, UNICEF is currently implementing a Recovery Plan for Turkish Children to respond in an integrated manner to the needs of children and women affected by the earthquake. Valued at $14.2 million, the plan includes relief and rehabilitation interventions in the health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation and psycho-social sectors.

In addition to relief interventions, UNICEF focuses on rehabilitation efforts and is actively advocating with government counterparts and humanitarian partners to ensure that all basic services are available to the affected children and mothers.

Activities focus on providing a friendly environment for children and their mothers in tent camps and prefabricated cities, using the concept of a "Child Friendly Environment" as a model. This concept is based on the provision of an integrated set of services to meet the basic needs of children and their mothers in the areas of health, nutrition, education, water, sanitation, and psycho-social assistance.

UNICEF has established a strong presence in the Sea of Marmara area through its field base in Izmit. More than 15 staff are stationed at the Izmit base and travel continuously within the region to organize the distribution of supplies and materials, identify needs, monitor conditions and implement UNICEF programme activities.

Education is key

As a result of the earthquakes, many schools lost materials and supplies. In addition, many students lost their houses and all their possessions. UNICEF has been identifying schools most affected by the earthquake and supplying materials to classes. Educational, recreational kits and pre-school kits are being distributed in the five affected provinces.

School Nutrition Programme

In response to a concern by the health teams as to the well being of the children in this area, UNICEF has begun a short-term programme to distribute high protein biscuits in the health centres of the tent cities and in the schools within the earthquake area. The Ministry of National Education has identified the most vulnerable schools by surveying the school transportation system and assessing where the children from the tent cities attend school.

Pallet Distribution

The distribution of pallets is ongoing. To date a total of 13,000 have been installed to protect school children from the humid and muddy ground. The pallet project has been very well received, as tent schools are only able to open once the pallets are in place. Due to the effectiveness of the intervention, an additional 3,000 pallets will be added, bring total distribution to 19,500.

The Ministry of National Education is establishing 375 tent schools: 160 in Duzce, and the remainder in and around Bolu centre. UNICEF will supply pallets for 300 of the tents in the area. Seventy-five tent schools have already received them.

Psychosocial interventions

Experience from comparable disasters has shown that psychological problems caused by the extensive exposure to traumatic events and the high degree of losses will result in long-term psychological, educational and health problems. Such trauma may arrest the resumption of normal daily life activities. Fortunately, even limited psychological interventions, if implemented in an appropriate manner, can have a lasting positive impact on the life experience of children and adults.

UNICEF's psychosocial team held extensive meetings to discuss the school based intervention programme and the debriefing needs in the epicentre of the second earthquake area (Duzce, Bolu and Kaynasli). The team also visited local Ministry of National Education offices and schools. Preliminary discussions concluded that greater emphasis should be given to the implementation of school-based interventions.

The recent addition of a Child Psychiatrist/Consultant to the Earthquake Emergency Psycho-social and Health programmes will help strengthen complementarities between the on-going School-Based Intervention Programme, implemented by the Ministry of National Education, and the existing mental health referral system for severely traumatised children, also implemented by the Ministry of Health.

Child Friendly Environments

The total number of tent cities in the first earthquake is currently 34, a dramatic decrease in quantity as more and more people choose to relocate to prefabricated cities. UNICEF has been at the forefront of advocating that all prefabricated cities must have a supportive physical and social infrastructure and activities to meet the special needs of children. UNICEF maintains that prefabricated cities must have creches, youth activities and after school recreational activities.

All prefabricated cities have been visited by UNICEF's Psychosocial team, and those with the largest populations were targeted as the starting point for the activities. UNICEF is actively seeking both building space, and personnel to run and manage the creches and recreational centres, and is offering equipment and supplies as a means to encourage the positive response of communities and private organizations.

Water Distribution Projects

Water Distribution in D=FCzce was initiated during the first week of January through which a daily average of 600 m=B3 of water is provided to more than 30,000 people in D=FCzce province. As a result of this project, a substantial portion of the need for safe drinking water in Duzce was met. Even though many residents of the provinces are able to obtain water from the municipal water network in some areas, they prefer to drink water from the tankers because of their concerns of water contamination due to broken pipes. The provision of safe drinking water by a private company hired by UNICEF currently allows the Municipality and Fire Brigade to attend to other needs, such as the repair of infrastructure in the city.

UNICEF contracted a truck company for the Adapazari Waster Distribution project from 16 October 1999 to 16 January 2000 to provide 15 truck tankers for water distribution. A total of 21 drivers and fifteen trucks were engaged for the project.

A Water and Sanitation Protocol

A Water and Sanitation Operation and Maintenance Protocol is being prepared for the Earthquake Coordinator Governor and UNICEF Turkey's Representative for their approval. Under the terms of the Protocol, a comprehensive maintenance and operating system ensures the continuous usage of facilities. The terms of the Protocol include: (1) the operation and maintenance of the units remains the responsibility of Camp Managers; (2) Camp Managers will deputize a team of technicians to undertake major repairs; and (3) UNICEF will follow-up with the manufacturer in the case of defects, as some repairs are under warranty clauses.

Measles Campaign

The Ministry of Health's measles campaign, undertaken throughout the earthquake area, is currently being implemented in Sakarya, Bolu and Duzce provinces. The campaign is designed to vaccinate 500,000 children against measles in the area. UNICEF has provided 500,000 doses of measles vaccines and syringes. It is estimated that more than 200,000 children have been vaccinated. The exact number will be provided once Bolu and Duzce provinces submit their coverage data.

The Ministry of Health expanded its measles campaign from the 1-6 age group to the 1-15 age group in the earthquake area after nine measles cases were reported in Golcuk in November, 1999. Thus far, the Ministry of Health has vaccinated the entire 7-14 age group in Kocaeli province. The vaccination campaign is on-going in the other Provinces.

High Protein Biscuits

The distribution of supplementary high protein biscuits through the health centres is on-going in Kocaeli, Sakarya and Yalova provinces for children in the 1-6 age group and pregnant and lactating mothers.

UNICEF Training of Kocaeli University Students

UNICEF/Ankara and the University of Kocaeli entered into an agreement on 29 December to monitor the humanitarian situation in tent camps and prefabricated cities in the earthquake area. This accord will help UNICEF assess the implementation of project activities and review the availability of basic services for children in the education, psycho-social, health, water and sanitation sectors by collecting data in all tent camps and prefabricated cities. On 3 January, UNICEF staff, in conjunction with professors of Kocaeli University, provided training to twenty-six students in data collection and interview techniques. The following day, one Team Leader, two Assistant Team Leaders and 24 students were deployed for a period of five working days to collect information from all tent camps and prefabricated cities in the earthquake area.

Perspectives in the Prefabricated City

Elmas, 37, is a primary school teacher in Adapazar, which is one of the most heavily hit cities in the region. She and her husband, Ismet live in a prefabricated house. They lost one of their twin daughters, Yasemin, (16). "I miss her very much...as if I lost half of myself," Yasemin's sister Selma says. Ismet is still very depressed. "I cannot forget her cries for help...I am still not able to sleep..." Elmas seems numb to the tragic events that have befallen them. All members of the family need professional intervention to overcome their trauma and regain a sense of normalcy.

Although five months have passed since the first devastating earthquake hit Turkey on 17 August, the pain of earthquake victims is still very present. The onset of a cold, wet, snowy winter, the permanent change in living conditions and the challenges associated with moving whole families to settle temporarily in prefabricated houses, renders the rehabilitation of traumatized victims even more difficult.

Every family tells a different story, yet they all share common experience: that of loss. A loss of children, parents, work and homes. Life is not easy for those who remain in the region. Some people are surviving the winter in tents, while others prefer living in prefabricated housing units. Many refuse to leave their homes and communities, opting to inhabit make-shift wooden "barakalar" (houses) next to their former homes.

Prefabricated houses provide better living conditions than tents. Yet social services in the form of basic health services, schools for children, psycho-social activities, and other recreational spaces are not yet available in some cases.

For more information on UNICEF, visit its website at http://www.unicef.org