Tzu Chi Hosts its First Earthquake Relief Distribution in Turkey

National Headquarters  |  February 27, 2023
Earthquake survivors, including young children, attend Tzu Chi’s first relief distribution in Sultangazi, Istanbul. Photo/Nadya Chou

Written by Qihua Luo
Translated by Hong Chan
Edited by Dilber Shatursun, Andrea Barkley

When it comes to disaster, timing is everything.

On Friday, February 17, 2023, Tzu Chi Turkey hosted its first distribution for survivors of recent and deadly earthquakes in Turkey. A total of 152 care recipients received supermarket gift cards, blankets, and scarves.

On February 17, Tzu Chi Turkey began distribution at El Menahil International School. Despite the calm of the morning, volunteers and survivors sensed the collective post-disaster trauma.

I don't think there will be any smiles today. The pain in the victims' hearts is not something ordinary people can bear. I hope we can bring them some warmth with the supplies and the hugs we give.

An older adult named Omer came alone to collect supplies. Tragically, the earthquake killed 17 members of his family. Worried that he could not carry supplies alone, Tzu Chi volunteers drove him to his temporary residence. Omer now resides in a small room that can barely fit a double bed and sofa. Five survivors now live there. Given this situation, Omer said helplessly, “My house has collapsed, and I have nothing left.” 

Since the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Turkey and Syria on February 6, nearly 300 Tzu Chi volunteers have visited the survivors’ homes in Istanbul. Through their investigation, they discovered that 1,100 families needed assistance. In response, Tzu Chi Turkey prepared for a second distribution at El Menahil International School the next day, on February 18.

Thorough Surveys to Assess Victims’ Needs

Tzu Chi’s Earthquake Relief Team made a 10-hour trek to Gaziantep, a province in south-central Turkey. Turkey’s preliminary statistics show that the earthquake destroyed more than 50,000 houses in this region. At present, the search and rescue operation has come to an end. Non-profit organizations from all over the world have successively entered disaster areas to provide humanitarian care. 

Tzu Chi relief team volunteers stopped at a town called Nurdağı. Nurdağı is a small town in Gaziantep, Turkey. More than 2,400 residents died in the earthquake here. Over 300 houses collapsed, and the downtown area was demolished.

More than ten days after the disaster, many survivors still lived in tents. A survivor named Kurt showed Tzu Chi volunteers his ruined home. He shared, “This is where I lived before the earthquake; the bottom floor used to be my brother’s. My brother died during the earthquake. As you can see, we have had a challenging time. But we are lucky to have aid groups such as AFAD, the Turkish Red Crescent Society, and aid groups from overseas. Thank you very much.”

The earthquake has impacted eleven provinces in Turkey, which is a geographically vast area. Although the travel time across regions is long, Tzu Chi volunteers continue to venture deep into disaster areas to understand the real needs of the survivors and to provide them with accurate and compassionate assistance.

Earthquake damage has gone from mild to severe, so survivors' needs differ. Some need blankets, and some need heaters and even container houses. The variety is vast, so we are still in the assessment phase.

In the face of disaster, it is imperative that everyone assists in the ways they can. Therefore, Tzu Chi volunteers worldwide send blessings and support to these earthquake survivors to recover from this devastation as swiftly as possible. 

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