Two soup kitchens co-organized by WHH provide food for the earthquake survivors in Mardin and Gaziantep.
Mardin is a popular tourist town known as a cultural heritage site in Türkiye. Since the devastating earthquakes, it has become a place of refuge for thousands of people made homeless by the catastrophe.
More than 70 families arrived in Mardin in the last few days – many of them originally Syrians who have lived in Türkiye as refugees for years. They have found refuge in the ancient stone houses, where they receive support from Welthungerhilfe (WHH) through food aid.
Many Syrian refugees have again lost their homes due to the earthquakes
Ali AlHassan is one of them. Originally from Raqqa, he fled to Türkiye 11 years ago. After arriving in Mardin, the 28-year-old took up residence with his wife and four children in an old but sturdy house with a vaulted ceiling. They feel safe: The city of Mardin is more than 2,000 years old and stands on solid rock; even the earthquakes on February 6 did not damage it.
It was a different story in Urfa, where Ali previously lived with his family and worked as a hairdresser. Countless houses collapsed or were damaged, he says, and many of them – including Ali's house – are still at risk of collapse.
Earthquake disaster brings new trauma
“They were the worst minutes of our lives!” recalls Ali. “We tried to leave the house and run downstairs from the third floor, but during the quake, we couldn't unlock our door; the lock was stuck. We were stuck. I thought the ceiling would collapse and bury us all under it."
Mechanically, he did what was necessary: dress the children, throw IDs, important documents, a few photos, and clothes into a suitcase – and left. The AlHassans have not returned to their apartment since. Ali tried once to retrieve more belongings but rescue workers had already cordoned off the badly damaged house and given demolition orders.
"First, we slept in a school for ten days where we shared a room with ten other families. Then we were in a mosque for three days. But we knew it couldn't go on like this. We needed a longer-term place to stay," says Ali's wife Noor, originally from Aleppo, Syria.
Emergency aid: Psychological support and hot meals.
Just a few days ago, the family arrived in Mardin. WHH's partner organization instantly reached out to them when they registered in the city.
Hülya Celebioglu, manager of the WHH partnership, was working with psychologists before the earthquakes to support women who have experienced domestic violence. While that work continues now, at the same time, Hülyae has launched a soup kitchen that now provides nutritious meals daily to more than 1,000 people – Ali and Noor among them. Today they are having noodles with fresh vegetables and lentil soup. Hülya was also able to rent a small house in the old town for the family. At least for the next two months, they can live there – between souvenir stores and tourist groups.
Noor says the last few weeks have been particularly difficult for her children. Her oldest daughter Reyan, seven, often has nightmares, asking if there will be another earthquake. Her youngest son Abdul Malik, two, has trouble sleeping, feeling his family's restlessness.
Several earthquakes shook southeastern Türkiye, near the border with Syria, on February 6, 2023. People are in urgent need of support.
The AlHassans will also receive psychological support. "We are completely reorienting our work and focusing more on earthquake survivors. We want to offer psychological support to women and children in particular," explains Hülya.
She remembers the first days of the war in Syria; exactly 12 years ago. "Even then, many Syrian families came to Mardin because our city is close to the border and many people here already speak Arabic. We prepared meals and supported people. Since the earthquakes, we have had a similar situation. In the last few weeks, almost 30,000 people have arrived in Mardin. And us? We are here to support them."