‘It’s so cold’: Earthquake aid eludes many in southeastern Turkey

Residents of Osmaniye say they need food, heaters and proper housing arrangements to take care of their children.

Children outside makeshift tents in Osmaniye [Patrick Keddie/Al Jazeera]
Children outside makeshift tents in Osmaniye [Patrick Keddie/Al Jazeera]

Osmaniye, Turkey – Eight days after catastrophic earthquakes and aftershocks left tens of thousands dead and many more homeless, humanitarian aid still has not reached people in parts of Turkey that were severely affected.

More than 100 people are staying in a makeshift camp in Osmaniye after their houses were damaged or collapsed – they have yet to receive any support from AFAD, the state emergency and disaster committee.

To make tents and makeshift shelters for themselves and their families, they had to scavenge for materials wherever they could find them.

All they have received so far is some food from the municipality.

“We need heaters, we need food, we need support for our kids,” Songul Bulsan, 44, said, as one of the children coughed, a harsh, hacking sound. The adults declined to be photographed but allowed Al Jazeera to photograph their children.

“We asked for tents – but we couldn’t even get a tent. It’s so cold – if we find tyres, we burn them,” she added. “We burn whatever we can find to get warm. There is not much help in Osmaniye right now.”

Makeshift tents in Osmaniye
Makeshift tents in Osmaniye where people displaced in the earthquake are sheltering [Patrick Keddie/Al Jazeera]

More than 20 million people have been affected by the earthquakes of magnitude 7.8 and 7.6 that took place in southeastern Turkey and northwest Syria. According to the United Nations, some 870,000 people need urgent hot meals across the two countries.

Dozens of countries have pledged aid to Istanbul as rescue and relief efforts continue, despite dwindling hope of finding any survivors.

A non-governmental business organisation, the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation, has estimated a loss of up to $84.1bn from the disaster.

‘Can’t blame anyone’

People are scared to enter their damaged properties as strong aftershocks of nearly magnitude 5 continue.

In Osmaniye, nearly 1,000 people are spending the night in carriages at the local train station.

They are given three meals a day, psychological support, and have access to mobile toilets and showers provided by the state.

Osmaniye train station
People displaced by the quakes are sheltering inside train carriages at the Osmaniye station [Patrick Keddie/Al Jazeera]

Meanwhile, a camp of AFAD tents in a nearby school is full.

Nevertheless, some people say the authorities are doing the best they can in the situation but are very stretched.

Bulsan told Al Jazeera she was sensitive to foreign journalists making “propaganda”.

“You cannot blame anyone, the impact is so much. Even if Turkey gets totally flattened we will love our government.”

Last week, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu criticised the government’s response, saying that while the earthquake was “huge”, there was a “lack of coordination, lack of planning and incompetence”.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has acknowledged “shortcomings” in the state’s response to the quakes, adding that severe weather had made rescue efforts more difficult.

Reporting by Patrick Keddie in Osmaniye

Source: Al Jazeera