This year, winter was milder than last year in all parts of Türkiye. Especially those living in temporary shelters in the earthquake zone are grateful for this situation. Because even the mild winter was a very difficult period for these families.  In late March and early April, as STL's communication team, we visited Adıyaman and Kahramanmaraş, two of the provinces that suffered the most damage in the 6 February Earthquakes. Our aim was to learn about the situation of the families and the current needs in the geography that blossomed with spring when the winter season left behind.

The two rural areas we visited have something special in common. Yaylakonak in Adıyaman and Büyüknacar in Kahramanmaraş, both of which are underlain by fault lines. Both regions were devastated by the earthquake last year and it took a long time for aid to reach the region due to their remote location from the centre. When we travelled to two different settlements where the destruction and losses were so intense to learn about the latest situation, we were welcomed with warm hospitality. Happily, everyone we spoke to confided in us with the hope of spring and the belief that good days are coming. Now, I will tell what we heard and witnessed in these two regions. Our first stop is Yaylakonak.


Yaylakonak is located in the mountainous region of Adıyaman, about 25 km from the centre. A bright stream flows in the valley stretching between two mountains. Consisting of 6 neighbourhoods, more than 130 of the nearly 400 households in the area were destroyed in the earthquake. The number of casualties is over 100. Today, the inhabitants of the region are sheltering in large and small containers set up in neighbouring areas. The earthquake has almost ended the economic life in the town, which makes a living from tobacco and animal husbandry. Many animals perished in the earthquake and barns were destroyed. Due to financial difficulties, the villagers have largely disposed of their surviving animals. In tobacco, the destruction of storage areas and the inability of families to work after the losses brought production to a standstill. After the earthquake, many people migrated from the region for a short time, but they returned before the end of the year.

80-year-old Memduh* is one of those who migrated to Antep with his wife after the earthquake, but could not stay and returned to his village. In unison with the other villagers, they describe their situation as follows: "The earthquake split the opposite mountain, destroyed the village, but we are still standing, we are here." Memduh says that trying to survive in another province is more difficult than living in a container in his own village. Then, leaning towards me, he adds with the seriousness of giving very confidential information: "If we can say we are here, it is thanks to civil associations like you."

I think there is no greater reward for a humanitarian aid worker than to hear these words, and I respond by saying that we will continue to do our best. Memduh especially underlines the one-time cash assistance given for winter needs after the needs assessments were made with the families affected by the earthquake. With the support of the international humanitarian aid organization Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, the cash assistance of approximately 24 thousand TL, which we delivered to those in need in the earthquake zone, responded to the urgent needs of many families just at the beginning of the winter season. Memduh says that with this support they received in December, they not only bought food and winter clothes but also paid off the accumulated debts of the electricity bills that had been cut to their containers since early autumn.


In the 30-container temporary shelter area at the entrance of Yaylakonak, we are visiting Memduh's neighbours, Zeki* (40) and Zeynep* (30). With their 9-month-old baby, 3-year-old son, Zeki's sister and their disabled elderly mother, they live in a shelter they built by combining two one-room containers with a total of 6 people. The couple starts by telling us about the hardships they suffered in the first days of the earthquake. Their houses were destroyed in the earthquake and they were pulled out from under the rubble by their neighbours. They state that it was very difficult for aid to reach the region due to the harsh winter conditions and the damage to the roads caused by the earthquake. In the first days after the earthquake, the local people tried to reach everything including search and rescue themselves. The villagers took shelter in makeshift tents in the municipality building and the village school garden. As of May, containers started to be delivered to the region. At this point, the paths of the Support to Life Association and the residents of the region crossed. Zeki expresses with a smile as follows: "The Support to Life team came one day, said they would ask a few questions to determine what the need was in this area, and talked to us. We told them what we needed without being sure if help would come, just in case. Although some containers had showers and toilets, most containers did not. The next day we realised that they had brought and installed a shower-toilet. We were very surprised, very happy." Memduh also added that it is very good that the women/men’s shower-toilets are surrounded by panels and separated from each other, especially for the comfortable use of women.

Again, as the implementing partner of our strategic partner Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe, we once again understand how effective the mobile showers and toilets we delivered to the region within the scope of another project funded by the European Union have been in improving the living conditions here with the stories of Zeki and Zeynep couple. With the cleaning materials delivered with these units, the people living in the container area determined a plan among themselves and shared the responsibility of cleaning the units.

Finally, we visit the container of Fahriye* (49) and Hilmi* (41). Fahriye, the mother of one child, says that the shower-toilet installation is more important than anything else. And she adds: "After the earthquake, no one had anything, no crockery, no clothes, no laundry, no mirror, no comb. The packages distributed for women included shampoo and combs. These were very good." She says that the hygiene and women's care packages they received in the summer of last year were very useful for cleaning in that hot period and thanks those who made these distributions possible.

We leave all the households we visit with a promise that we will visit them again when they move to their own homes. The main agenda of Yaylakonak residents today is when they will be able to regain their homes. The real normalization of life will obviously only be possible once they enter the door of that house.

*The names of the beneficiaries whose testimonies are included in this article have been changed to protect their personal rights.

Çiğdem Güner
Communications Manager


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