Livelihoods buried under heaps of rubble
Food, home, chance – the motto of Hungarian Interchurch Aid echoes the needs of those living in the earthquake-affected regions of Türkiye. As the emergency entered the humanitarian stage, HIA staff conducted assessments to identify the needs of the inhabitants requiring assistance and started organising relief efforts. Reaching out for those in need of food, housing and education, HIA’s aid programme announced in March lays the foundation for long-term assistance in Türkiye – the need of which becomes obvious the instant one talks to the people affected. This is the second part of our three-part report on the situation in Hatay – read the first one here.
The capital of Hatay province is the 2500-year-old city of Antakya, or Antioch as it we know it from antiquity. Home to one of the first churches of Christianity, the city lays in ruins when we arrive. Dust fills the air, and it is hard to have a normal conversation in the deafening clatter of excavators. However, it’s not “only” dust: until recently, asbestos shingles were commonly used for roofing in the region, so when these roofs collapsed, carcinogenic asbestos was released in the air. With 80 percent of the city’s buildings either destroyed or due to be demolished because of their condition, Antakya feels postapocalyptic. Few people roam the once prosperous inner city, typically only salvaging their belongings which were not destroyed in the disaster.
The former bazaar looks like a demolition site. Here, at the bottom of the rubble heaps, a man is pushing through the rubble with his bare hands. Hüseyin is willing to talk to us and agrees to have his picture taken, even though his fashionable, expensive clothes are covered in dust and dirt. “We have nothing left. We’ve lost our house, we’ve lost our livelihoods, all of our belongings. I had a thriving perfume shop here in the bazaar. Now I’m trying to find the few glasses of perfume that the looters left behind after the earthquake, so that I can at least get some money out of it. My family is in a tent, business is over, but with God’s help, everything will be all right. Thank you for all the support we have received from all over the world! If a disaster like this happens anywhere else, we will come to your aid, too” he says, pledging to help even in his difficult situation.
For the time being, it is still Antakya that needs help. At a small camp on the outskirts of the city in an area lined by crumbling buildings, Hungarian Interchurch Aid and its local partner – the International Blue Crescent – are delivering food parcels to families who have been left homeless by the catastrophe. In this camp, 200 people received food packages from HIA. The heavy boxes containing three weeks’ worth of dry food become light once one realises what it means to the people living in the tent city.
However, this is only momentary relief for a fraction of the millions of people made homeless by the earthquake in February. Three months later, most of them are still in constant need of assistance, the greatest need clearly being housing. To their help, Hungarian Interchurch Aid has launched a humanitarian aid programme, the cornerstone of which is the installation of residential and sanitary containers in the camps of the earthquake-ridden region. Apart from containers, HIA also provides essential aid items like non-perishable food and hygiene products to those living in tents – like Hüseyin, most of the survivors have lost their livelihoods along with their belongings.
The fate of the region lies not within the hands of its inhabitants, it is beyond their means. With international attention dwindling as time passes, it is even more important to provide long-term assistance to those affected. This – given their large numbers – in turn can only be achieved through international cooperation. Over the next six months, HIA’s aid programme will be there to support those who’ve lost so much in the tragic events of 6 February. Working hand-in-hand with local partners, HIA strives to ensure that – as Hüseyin put it – “with God’s help everything will be allright.”
Hungarian Interchurch Aid continues to raise funds to help the victims of the earthquake. You too can support our efforts by donating on our website – if you’d prefer to support our work in Turkey By bank transfer, please put “earthquake” as a transfer notice.
Bank’s name: OTP Bank Nyrt.
Account name: Hungarian Interchurch Aid
IBAN Nr. (EUR): HU 13-1176-3842-0065-8885-00000000
IBAN Nr. (USD): HU 39-1176-3842-0073-9012-00000000
Swift code: OTPVHUHB