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Survivors battle cold in Turkey

BY DANIEL R. GANGLER | TURKEY | January 17, 2000

TURKEY (Jan. 17, 2000) -- Snow and freezing temperatures are hampering efforts to keep survivors warm and dry in Turkey, where two 1999 earthquakes, one in August and one in November, left more than 17,000 people dead, 5,000 seriously wounded, and 180,000 homeless.

Faith-based relief agencies are working around-the-clock in a half dozen northwest Turkey cities.

United Church of Christ missionary Alan McCain said, "for Duzce and Kaynarca, it's a bit like kidney failure after a heart attack. There had been significant damage during the first earthquake. The November 12 'quake and its aftershocks brought down the rest of the town. Ninety percent (of Duzce) is uninhabitable -- just gone." Tent cities now ring these towns.

Suffering the most are people in the cities of Adapazari, Duzce, Izmit, Kaynarca, Yalova, and parts of Istanbul, where interfaith coalitions provide housing, food, bedding, furniture, and hope for the future. Just last week in Adapazari, a bedridden elderly man died after a fire raced through two wooden shacks housing earthquake survivors. Such stories are common.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), based in Baltimore, Md., has raised $6 million for Caritas Turkey to deliver food, prefabricated houses, beds, winterized tents, and clothing. CRS and Caritas Turkey are currently developing long-term rehabilitation plans including the construction of prefabricated homes and the provision of social services to earthquake survivors, according to CRS reports.

In this $8-million rehabilitation phase, CRS will continue to distribute food coupons for six months to assist 2,000 families, erect 300 prefabricated buildings at Adapazari to house 1,200 homeless people for up to ten years, provide post-traumatic psychological counseling, dispense medicines, and provide for the education of children, youths, and adults. Caritas Turkey plans to construct schools, school cafeterias, and children's playgrounds with the goal of completing its projects by the year 2002.

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is also active at Adapazari. ADRA spokesperson Alexander Balint said the streets of Adapazari are extremely dirty. "This looks like some kind of remnant from a war zone," he said.

"There is an all-around sense of disillusionment from the people." Horror stores of death and destruction are all too common.

ADRA continues to provide shelter, food, water, and other items for those still coping in the aftermath of the earthquakes at Adapazari. Last month, ADRA distributed 3,000 hygiene kits and 1,300 blankets.

Rosedale Mennonite Missions, in the same devastated areas, recently spent $92,500 to purchase 2,000 floor pallets to lift tents off the cold, wet winter ground. Many of the non-winterized tents are wrapped with plastic sheeting to keep them dry. "The elevated pallets will help alleviate some of the discomfort this causes," reported Janet Janzen, co-director of Mennonite Central Committee's (MCC) Middle East department. MCC and Mennonite Missions contributed $142,000 to purchase 200 winterized tents that hold up to10 people each.

Most U.S. mainline Protestant churches continue their relief efforts through Action by Churches Together (ACT), which is an agency of Protestant, Anglican, and Orthodox churches and church-related relief organizations, coordinated through the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation, both based in Geneva, Switzerland. ACT works with a coalition of Christian churches in Turkey.

The coalition recently announced that it will withdraw from the Izmit area early this year. Izmit was the epicenter of the Aug. 17 earthquake. The coalition will continue relief efforts in the Duzce area where ACT member Dutch Interchurch Aid is providing shelter through the winter.

Even though tens of thousands of homes are being built, ACT reports that 50,000 houses are still needed. Around 13,000 people have been targeted for housing assistance. The Turkish government is responsible for overall coordination of the project with assistance from local authorities. ACT has budgeted $1.7 million for earthquake relief and plans to be present in Turkey until September 1, 2000.

ACT member United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) announced plans for rehabilitation measures to be implemented through UMCOR's local partners in the Izmit area.

The plans include: renovation of the Karamursel School for the Deaf, a government-supported school for 80 deaf students ages 7-18 in Yalova Province. UMCOR plans to spend $242,000 on the renovation. "We're also equipping the school and doing a disaster preparedness program," said Lianna Vanoyan, a senior staff member in UMCOR's Washington, DC office.

UMCOR further plans to spend $595,200 on an emergency mobile shelter project in Adapazari to provide urgently needed winterized housing for 192 families.

A third UMCOR project includes social rehabilitation for children, youths, and

women in the region of Golcuk and Izmit with the aim of providing training, counseling, and material inputs for more than 1,200 women now left without economic means, and providing recreation for more than 400 children and youths in camps. This project will cost $110,000. UMCOR issued an appeal Jan. 4 for these three projects, according to the ACT office in Geneva.

With other relief groups in Adapazari is the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC). According to its International Relief Coordinator Joan Cosby, CRWRC supports the work of the New Hope Church in Adapazari and in Dernice, which in turn supports relief efforts of the Alliance of Turkish Protestant Churches.

Cosby said, "in both communities, CRWRC has supported the purchase of sturdy

shelters that can provide warm, comfortable, and safe accommodations for large families, until permanent housing is restored."

Michigan-based International Aid (IA) also has a strong presence in Adapazari. This evangelical relief agency has provided 81 prefabricated "container" houses for homeless families, who have already settled. According to IA relief workers in Turkey, each housing unit costs $3,000, and includes a toilet and bath, bunk beds, kitchen sink, stove, electric heater, and dining table with four chairs.

The housing project involves five Christian relief organizations, the Subaru Bank of Japan, and the Turkish government, which transported the houses to Adapazari. Cooperating relief groups include: Samaritan's Purse (USA), Hope International/Baptist World Aid, IA, CRWRC, and Lutheran Emergency Aid of


IA plans to raise another $25,000 to build an additional eight houses. To date IA has received $744, 444 in donations, according to IA spokesperson Jerry Dykstra.

IA relief workers report that all the families, who are mostly Muslims, receiving homes are very appreciative of the generosity and compassion of Christian donor organizations.

IA's next challenge in Adapazari is education. Some classes have already been operating under tents but with hardly any reading materials. There are no schools operating. IA is building a new school. Next IA will be collecting educational materials for elementary and high school levels and shipping them to Turkey with partners there.

Posted Jan. 17, 2000

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