In this second blog post, we travel from the earthquake-affected Yaylakonak region of Adıyaman to the village of Büyüknacar in Kahramanmaraş. Let’s take a closer look at the current situation in this second location on the fault line.

The earthquakes on February 6, 2023, deeply affected a vast area encompassing 11 provinces of Türkiye, with Kahramanmaraş being the epicenter of the disaster. Now, I’ll focus on a region right on the fault line in Kahramanmaraş and talk about the situation in Büyüknacar.

Büyüknacar, a village in the Pazarcık district of Kahramanmaraş, was a rural settlement established in a mountainous area at an altitude of 1600 meters, consisting of 190 households primarily engaged in livestock farming. I use the past tense because this settlement was literally razed to the ground by the earthquake. Before visiting Büyüknacar, I gather information about the region from our team. They relay the following: 120 houses in the village were completely destroyed by the earthquake. The remaining houses were severely damaged. Only 10-15 houses were left standing without damage. There were numerous casualties. Access to the village, especially in the winter conditions of February 2023, was very challenging. Today, some villagers live in container cities, while others refuse to leave their village.

At the end of March, when we reach the village after an hour’s drive from the city center, we still see visible traces of destruction. The dirt roads are in poor condition, and we can only drive up the steep streets to a certain point. We start walking through the village to reach our destination. During this walk, I observe more closely. There are shanties set up in front of damaged houses. The tents have been dismantled and gathered to the sides, replaced by container shelters. Next to these shelters, there are latrines in some places. The village mosque is half-destroyed, with one standing minaret broadcasting the Friday sermon of the imam through its loudspeakers. For me, this scene symbolizes life in Büyüknacar: a half-ruined village where life continues with the residents’ efforts to normalize.

As we walk down the street, we hear Sevcan’s* voice from a high spot, “Don’t bother climbing up, it’s too muddy,” she says, starting to descend the slope. Sevcan is a cheerful 38-year-old woman. When she meets us, she doesn’t know where to invite us; finding a flat spot to place two chairs in the village is difficult. We decide to sit in front of her sister’s container. We begin chatting with her sister Neriman* and Sevcan. “How are you?” I ask. The first response comes from Sevcan: “What should I tell you, everything is gone, we were trapped inside the earthquake.” Sevcan lost two of her six children and her husband in the earthquake; her house collapsed, and she and her four surviving children were rescued from the debris and the landslide. Neriman, on the other hand, was working as a seasonal agricultural laborer with her family in Cyprus, picking oranges at the time. They didn’t experience the earthquake firsthand, but their house in the village was destroyed, and they couldn’t hear from their relatives on the first days. They were terrified and quickly returned to the village. I listen to the two sisters recount the initial moments, the days, and the weeks that followed at length. I'm thinking that Sevcan's story, in particular, is one of the countless examples of human resilience we have encountered.

We all need a break, so I excuse myself to wash my hands and face. Behind Neriman’s container, there is a mobile sink. Neriman, bowing her head, mentions that the water flow is a bit problematic and adjusts the tap herself. When I return from the sink, I see that tea has been served on a stool placed as a table between our chairs, and neighboring women have joined our conversation circle. Everyone greets us with a smile. From their “Welcome, Support to Life” greetings, I understand that our team is well-known here.

The villagers of Büyüknacar first got to know Support to Life through the distribution of hygiene items. They emphasize that hygiene has been one of the most critical needs in this region after the earthquake and, unfortunately, still is. As the implementing partner of the humanitarian aid organization Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (Diakonie Disaster Relief), under the project funded by the European Union aimed at addressing hygiene needs in the earthquake zone, we have been providing hygiene kits to Büyüknacar in May 2023. The villagers unanimously express that this intervention has been very effective in improving living conditions in the region.

What the villagers especially emphasize is the winter cash assistance provided to households identified through needs assessment studies conducted with the villagers. This humanitarian aid, in partnership with Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, has been a crucial support for the people in this harsh winter region who lost all their income and assets in the earthquake. Sevcan mentions using this cash assistance for the new wooden house built with the support of philanthropists to replace her destroyed home: “The support came at a time when I needed it so much. It was raining, and my few belongings were out in the open. I immediately had a roof put over the balcony during the house construction and moved my belongings there. I was able to have the house’s toilet and bathroom built thanks to this support.” Neriman takes over: “We bought winter clothes and boots for the children. We lost all our belongings in the earthquake. Shoes, in particular, were a huge need. We met the children’s needs with the winter support.” Other village women benefiting from the cash assistance add that they used it to pay accumulated electricity bills, buy winter wood-coal, and prepare their shelters for winter conditions.

At the end of our conversation with Sevcan and Neriman, we talk about their children’s dreams. When the subject turns to children, our spirits lift. Sevcan’s 8-year-old daughter was insistent on becoming a pilot before the earthquake. Now, she has adopted her sister’s dream, who was lost in the earthquake, and is determined to become a doctor. The surrounding women join the conversation, saying most children dream of becoming nurses or doctors to help patients. I note these children’s dreams as another testament to the human desire to be well and to heal. As Support to Life, we will continue to support dreams and contribute to recovery alongside those affected by the earthquake, working to rebuild lives in the earthquake zone.

*The names of the beneficiaries mentioned have been changed to protect their personal rights.

Çiğdem Güner
Communications Manager / Kahramanmaraş


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