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03.03.2023 | Project Update

Women in the earthquake zone: solidarity on display

In response to the earthquake, a women's cooperative has overhauled its activities and now distributes meals to people in need of assistance with the support of Welthungerhilfe (WHH).

Zwei Frauen bereiten in großen Kochtöpfen Mahlzeiten für Erdbebenopfer zu.
WHH employees in Shahinbey, Gaziantep prepare meals for earthquake survivors. More than 2,000 people receive a fresh meal every day: dinner and breakfast for the next day. © Stefanie Glinski/Welthungerhilfe
Stefanie Glinski Journalist

Home is not a safe place, says Aishe Aslan. At night, the 24-year-old sets an alarm clock. It rings every 30 minutes because under no circumstances does she want to sleep in case there is another earthquake. She is exhausted but does not dare to rest.

At 4:17 a.m. on February 6, life changed for millions of people in Türkiye and Syria. "It was a nightmare. I thought we were all going to die," Aishe recounts. She turns pale and becomes anxious as she recalls the memories. Although her house is still standing, the fear runs deep. "Now that we have survived, we want to help those who have been homeless since the earthquake," she adds.

Meals for people in need after the earthquake

Aishe had already joined the women's cooperative before the earthquake, which has been supported by WHH for two years. 18 Turkish and Syrian women work together on a community integration project. Usually, they dry fruits and preserve vegetables, but since the earthquake, the committed group has temporarily turned its concept on its head. "Now we cook for families who survived the earthquake but require help," says Aishe. The RTL Foundation and WHH cover the costs of their extraordinary commitment.

Hatice Hanan, 36, cooks every day in Sahinbey, Gaziantep for earthquake victims in Türkiye. More than 2,000 people receive a meal every day © Stefanie Glinski/Welthungerhilfe
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WHH employee Aishe Sedef Aslan, 24, from Gaziantep, cuts bread for meals for earthquake victims in the region © Stefanie Glinski/Welthungerhilfe
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In the women's cooperative, fresh ingredients are used to cook for the earthquake victims. In this crisis situation, the women receive support from two specially hired chefs © Welthungerhilfe
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The women in the Şahinbey cooperative pack the prepared meals in portions into transport boxes and bowls for local distribution to people in the affected areas. © Welthungerhilfe
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Together, the women divide the meals for the earthquake survivors and pack them in transportable containers. © Welthungerhilfe
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Distribution of meals in Islahiye, where people who lost their homes during the earthquake currently live in tents. © Stefanie Glinski/Welthungerhilfe
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The cooperative prepares up to 3,000 fresh meals a day, but the women aim to significantly increase this number. "In the morning we cook and in the afternoon we distribute the meals in different camps where earthquake survivors live."

The cooperative's colorful kitchen is in full operation every day. The women cut the vegetables and cook the rice, and the smell of fresh spices is in the steamy air.

Supporting each other after the earthquake disaster

The earthquake's devastation runs deep in the cooperative, too. "None of us thought we would survive," says employee Hatice Hanan, 36. "Clearly we now have to help those who are grieving for their deceased families and have to rebuild their lives all over again." In the short breaks the women have between cooking and packing meals, they often sit together to talk about their experiences of the past weeks; support each other.

Eine der Frauen, die sich in einer Suppenküche engagiert, schaut stolz in die Kamera.

Clearly we now have to help those who are grieving for their deceased families and have to rebuild their lives all over again.

Hatice Hanan Cooperative employee in Gaziantep

Since the earthquake, Hatice no longer sleeps at home but in a mosque near her house. This is the second time the mother of four has felt homeless. Ten years ago, she had to leave her hometown of Aleppo because of the war in Syria. Since then, she has been living in Türkiye. "The escape was traumatic," she recalls. "At the time, I was a mother of two and also pregnant. Every moment I was afraid for the life of my family. The earthquake brought back that fear all over again," she admits.

Several earthquakes shook southeastern Türkiye, near the border with Syria, on February 6, 2023. People are now in urgent need of support.

"We support each other"

Hatice has been working at the women's cooperative for two years. "The war in Syria and fleeing my home country were my absolute lowest points. But at the same time, this helps me today to meet people at their own low points. To grieve with them, to cry. We all support each other."

The women say they will continue to cook for earthquake survivors in the coming weeks. "WHH supports us in this – and we want to help the people affected for as long as it is necessary."

The people in the regions shaken by earthquakes now urgently need support. Help us to assist the people with vital relief supplies.

Help the victims of the earthquakes by donating now

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