Observation Team Visited Southern Turkey For the Future Aid Activities

In order to monitor the situation of the area affected by the Turkey-Syria earthquake which occurred in February 2023, and to evaluate the activities of the humanitarian organizations, an observation team of the Disaster Response Task Force of WCRP/RfP Japan visited southern Turkey for a week in late October.

WCRP/RfP Japan has been offering humanitarian support to the people in the affected area by funding aid organizations and religious institutions. The interfaith group has contributed around seventeen million yen (approximately one hundred and ten thousand U.S. dollars). The group will work on the second aid package based on the fact-finding mission report.

On October 24th, the three members team visited the Gaziantep office of the Türkiye Diyanet Foundation. WCRP/RfP Japan funded the Foundation through Tokyo Camii, an Islamic organization in Japan. The team toured a facility with fifteen hundred temporary housing units that the Foundation manages. Although the number of evacuees living in the facility had dropped from three thousand at the peak, two thousand still live in the temporary houses. An older woman said that the Turkish authorities had urged her to return home because the damage to her house was minor, but she was declining because of the fear for the future.


The next day, the team visited village chiefs of two villages in a mountainous area. A Japanese NGO, Pacific Asia Resource Center Interpeoples’ Cooperation, PARCIC, provides aid to the villages. Most villagers live in container houses or tents. Winter is just around the corner, with the area buried under two meters of snow and temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees Celsius. There is great concern as water and power outages are expected due to the severe winter climate. The two village chiefs said they needed heaters, electric stoves, and carpets.


The following day, the team visited the Önder Organization for Cooperation and Development headquarters. Mr. Najeeb Dadam, who reported from the field at the September online seminar, and his father, Mr. Abdulrahman Dadam, the chairman of Önder, greeted the three. Önder is an organization that strives to develop human resources who will carry the future with Syria's reconstruction in mind. Four floors of the five-story headquarters building are open to the public. They are used as spaces for children and adults to engage in various learning and activities, including language studies, drama, painting, science, embroidery, beauty training, and space experiences. The organization is aiming to establish a medical support center to perform therapy and a university in Syria.

In the afternoon of that day, the team visited Kids Rainbow, which supports children from Syria in an area with the highest concentration of people from Syria in Gaziantep. Many of those have temporary residence permits. Some don't have any permissions at all. Because they don't have refugee status, they can't move freely within Turkey and can only take illegal jobs. Approximately 60% of children living in this area don't attend school. Around one hundred forty children between six and thirteen have been registered to Kids Rainbow. They participate in various activities in two shifts: morning and afternoon. They use five classrooms to provide psychological support, Turkish language learning, music, painting, and film screenings. They want to focus on providing psychological support to children, and they feel that this is even more necessary after the earthquake.

The next day, the team visited the home of a woman in Gaziantep, who worked with around 20 widowed women to create and sell embroidery and handicrafts to support their lives. A Japanese NPO, Stand with Syria Japan, introduced her to the team.

Later that day, the team headed to Hatay Prefecture, where the NPO Association for Refugees (AAR) operates. The prefecture, which borders Syria, is in the most peripheral part of the disaster area. The team observed that the percentage of people living in tents seemed higher than in other regions they had visited. Most likely, it was because the area receives less aid due to its geographical location. They visited the following three aid organizations.

First, the team visited Civil Society Action Network Association, "Sivil Alan Hareket Ağı Derneği (SAHA)" in Antakya. SAHA aims to create a network of organizations active in the region to help people in difficult situations maintain their living conditions. SAHA is trying to make its activities more efficient and sustainable by uniting and coordinating local aid organizations.


Then, the team visited two groups in Samandag, closer to the Syrian border. One is a soup kitchen serving two to three thousand breakfasts and dinners daily. The kitchen was not only a place to eat but also functioned as a community where people could interact with each other. Another one was a group of about fifteen women that grew out of the soup kitchen activities, making bread, producing and selling specialty products such as mandarin oranges and olives, and distributing the income earned according to the amount of work done. Both groups cook and bake in plastic tents, and many live in tents. The outlook for the future is bleak due to the continued rise in prices and shortages of raw materials following the earthquake.

The team moved to Istanbul on the 28th and visited Caritas in Turkey, an international Catholic NGO. Although Caritas itself belongs to a minority group of Catholics in Turkey, it has been supporting other minorities in Turkey, such as Syrians, Afghans, and Uzbeks. Concerning the earthquake relief efforts, Caritas has assisted Afghan women in making textiles and provided psychological support to women under great stress due to anxiety and worry. Caritas is preparing plans to help people living in severe conditions through the coming winter.

The three members of the team were Norio Yamakoshi, Deputy Secretary General of WCRP/RfP Japan, Yoko Tateno (Gedatsu-kai), a Disaster Response Task Force member, and Hiroyo Murayama from the WCRP/RfP Japan Secretariat.