Several earthquakes shook southeastern Türkiye, near the border with Syria, on February 6, 2023. The survivors urgently need support.
The large truck packed with tents makes a deafening noise as it arrives at the Welthungerhilfe (WHH) warehouse. A thousand tents will be delivered today, after which distribution in affected earthquake areas will start immediately.
Tarik Polat, who has been working as Logistics Manager at WHH for nine years, has organized everything. The process is time-consuming but necessary, he says.
"When we need new supplies, we first issue a local call for tenders to recruit companies that can produce the goods we need and deliver them as quickly as possible. We then evaluate the offers according to price performance, i.e., how does the quality compare to the price? Before the contract is signed, we also check the companies themselves. We see whether they are independent, what values they represent, and who backs them."
In emergencies, as well as the terrible earthquake in Türkiye, such a process has to be fast, despite all that is involved. "The bureaucracy can actually be completed in a few days; then it's off to production for the selected company, then directly to the people who need help," Tarik says.
Rapid emergency aid after the earthquake
Just days after the terrible disaster, WHH was ready to distribute tents, hygiene items, and food – these distributions are ongoing a month after the earthquake. "Direct emergency aid can even be received by those affected for several months. After that, hopefully this can transition into some kind of help to rebuild – for example, we're trying to create longer-term job opportunities or provide direct financial support to people."
Today we are going to Samandag, one of the towns near the Syrian border that has probably been worst affected. Together with our partner ASAM, a Turkish aid organization, we distribute the tents. We adjust the quantity every day according to the demand. Today we have twelve tents with us for distribution to individual families.
A greenhouse as emergency shelter
For example, today we meet Yelis, a 37-year-old mother who has spent the last month in a greenhouse with her husband Ali, 39, and their two daughters Belen, 9, and Gül, 15.
The family's house is badly damaged, so they cannot move back. It is still unclear to the family how things will continue in the long term, but for now they want to move out of the greenhouse. "It's freezing cold at night and as hot as a sauna during the day," Yelis says. It's also spring now; the family would like to grow vegetables in the greenhouse again.
The family receives four new mattresses (they had been sleeping on thin mats on the floor), a tent, and a box with hygiene items.
"We will rebuild our lives"
Hakan Gültekin, the 44-year-old father of Ali, 6, also receives a tent and mattresses. Dejected, he points to his house, renovated only last year. It is so badly damaged that it must be demolished. The family survived because the door lock was stuck. "We tried to run outside when the earthquake started, but we were locked in. That saved our lives," Hakan says, pointing to heavy chunks of stone. "This is our balcony. It collapsed and could have buried all of us," the father says sadly.
But he is not giving up. What he has left is the green garden full of fruit trees. Hakan picks a few of the fresh-smelling oranges. He offers them to us, along with a cup of Turkish coffee. He points to a free spot between the trees. "This is exactly where we pitch our tent and this is where we will rebuild our lives," Hakan says.