Turkey: “It took a while for food supplies to reach us. Thank you, Japan.”

It has been reported that more than 600 people were killed and 4,000 injured by the powerful earthquake that struck eastern Turkey on October 23rd. On November 1st and 2nd, AAR JAPAN’s emergency relief team distributed relief supplies in the village of Dibekduzu in Van Province, which was particularly a severely-affected region. Yumeka OTA reports from Turkey.

Distributing Food Supplies and Daily Necessities in a Severely-Damaged Village

On November 1st and 2nd, we distributed relief supplies in Dibekduzu Village in the Van Province where 41 families and 301 people live. The village is located approximately 40 minutes away by car in the northwest direction from the center of the province. In the surrounding area, we saw the white tents that the Red Crescent Societies had set up, as well as green ones that were delivered from Kyrgyzstan. There were about 50 buildings in the village, but around 70% of them had been completely demolished.

November 2nd, 2011- A family returns home after receiving a basket of relief supplies. (Dibekduzu)
Responding to the urgency of their need for food, we first distributed 1 kg of chicken, 1 kg of oil, and 10 kg of rice to each family. In the village, a volunteer group provides a soup kitchen service everyday, and we were told that the chicken was used to make soup for the following day’s lunch.

On the following day, the 2nd, we finished preparing the rest of the relief supplies and delivered 2 truck-loads of supplies, enough for 41 families in Dibekduzu. There were a total of 12 items in the relief supplies, including staple foods such as canned tomatoes, beans, and macaroni, and daily necessities such as underwear, towels, and women’s sanitary products, which were individually packed in easily-transportable baskets for each of the families. Eastern Turkey, where we are currently carrying out our relief activities, is an area with the most number of large-sized families in the nation, and it is not rare to come across a family with 6 children. Therefore, we have anticipated families consisting of grandparents, parents, and 4 children, a total of 8 members per family.

“To the Japanese people, we are extremely thankful.”

All of the villagers are familiar with each other. One of the villagers created a list of families on a cardboard box, so we were able to reach out to each family and distribute the relief supplies. When we passed out the supplies, men in charge of the soup kitchen and women dressed in scarves repeatedly said “Teşekkür” which means “Thank you” in Turkish, or thanked us in broken English, and happily carried home the baskets.

Dibekduzu’s district vice-chief, Adam Kara (32 years oldsaid, “After the earthquake, 15 tents and 10 containers were delivered, but food supplies, which we desperately needed, rarely reached us. We are extremely thankful for the support that we are receiving from Japan.”

AAR JAPAN plans to continue distributing supplies to those affected in marginalized areas.

* This project was made possible thanks to a grant provided by Japan Platform in addition to generous individual donations.

【Distributed items per family:
Food items: 10 kg of rice, 2 kg of oil, 1 kg of chicken, 1.5 kg of salt, 750 g of sugar, 2.5 kg of beans, 1 kg of macaroni, 500 g of tea, 1 can of tomatoes, 1 box of biscuits
Non-food items: Underwear (2 pairs for men, 2 pairs for women, 4 pairs for children), 1 box of detergent, 3 packs of women’s sanitary products, 1kg of soap, 2 towels, basket for distributing items】

November 1st, 2011- Atsushi MIYAZAKI (left) and Yumeka OTA (to the right) hand a pack of chicken to a villager. The chicken was eaten for lunch on the following day. (Dibekduzu)
November 2nd, 2011- Miyuki KONNAI (left) delivers relief supplies to a mother and her daughter. (Dibekduzu)
November 2nd, 2011- Yumeka OTA (left) and Atsushi MIYAZAKI (right) prepares packets of underwear that are to be distributed as part of the relief supplies. Taking the children’s ages into consideration, we prepared 3 different sizes of children’s underwear.
November 1st, 2011- The demolished building next to the mosque simply suggests the immensity of the earthquake.

Yumeka OTA, AAR JAPAN Tokyo Office- Programme Coordinator
OTA joined the Overseas Program at the AAR JAPAN Tokyo office in July, 2009. After completing her undergraduate studies, she worked for a research company in the USA before joining AAR JAPAN. In addition to coordinating the Laos program at the Tokyo office, she has been a part of other emergency assistance operations including the 2009 Sumatra earthquake in Indonesia and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. (Born in Kanagawa Prefecture)