Turkey: Resuming Relief Efforts with Distribution of Food and Daily Necessities to 78 Households

Reacting to the earthquake that rocked east Turkey on October 23rd, 2011, AAR JAPAN deployed 3 staff members on October 26th to help with the relief effort through distribution of food and daily necessities. Right in the midst of our efforts in the affected area, a strong aftershock again hit the same area, and unfortunately, one of our staff members Atsushi MIYAZAKI lost his life in a collapse hotel building.
We had suspended our activities after the incident, but as it remained that much assistance was still needed by those affected in Turkey, we decided to restart our project again. On December 14th, Kiyoto ONISHI, Deputy Secretary General of AAR JAPAN, entered Turkey to pick up where we left off, and on December 26th, Yoshifumi KAWABATA, a staff member of AAR JAPAN, also flew over to join him. On December 28th, we made a distribution of relief items to Akcaoren Town in Van Province in eastern Turkey.
People Suffering Through the Cold Winter in Tents
Akcaoren Town is a small town surrounded by mountains. Most houses have either completely collapsed or half collapsed as a result of the earthquake. Even those people whose houses didn’t collapse are living in tents out of fear for the next aftershock. The government of Turkey has provided some container houses, but it is not nearly enough to accommodate everyone. And if all that was not bad enough, the cold temperature during this season is unforgiving – water puddles remain frozen even during the daytime, and the temperature dips well below zero degrees Celsius during the night.

December 28th, 2011 - A family going home with the relief supplies. Collapsed building and the tents people currently live in can be seen in the background. (Photo taken by Yoshifumi KAWABATA)

The morning of December 28th, our team packed our car with relief items procured in Van City, and made the one hour drive to Akcaoren Town. We distributed food items such as rice, sugar, biscuits, and macaroni, as well as non-food daily necessities such as underwear, detergent, towels to a total of 78 households. Once all items were distributed, they loaded their bags onto trolleys and returned home to share them with their families. 

Afterwards, we got to talk to Mr. Yusuf BUCAGA (65 years old), the mayor of Akcaoren Town. He reported that, “We have received some relief goods from organizations such as the Red Crescent Society, but it was not enough for to ride the winter with. Thank you for coming all the way from Japan to help us.” He also remembered the day when Atsushi MIYAZAKI, our departed colleague, visited Akcaoren to survey the town. He said that he could not help crying when he heard of the news. “I talked a lot to Atsushi over tea. I immediately felt a certain closeness to him because he was just the type of guy that talks to everyone with a smile. I am truly grateful to the people of Japan for the support we have been given,” he said.

It is certain that the affected areas in Turkey will need further assistance. AAR JAPAN is committed to continue to provide aid to Turkey, and we are grateful for all the warm support that has come from all around Japan.

December 28th, 2011 - Kiyoto ONISHI (left) handing relief items to a citizen, and an AAR JAPAN staff member Dogan (right) checking the registry. (Akcaoren Town)
December 28th, 2011 - A girl bringing the relief supplies home with a big smile.

December 28th, 2011 - Relief supplies such as rice and underwear were distributed.

December 28th, 2011 - Kiyoto ONISHI (right) listening to Mr. Yusuf, the mayor of Akcaoren Town (second from left).
December 28th, 2011 - A building with cracks is supported by some poles.

December 20th, 2011 - Temporary shelter people live in. Stoves are absolute necessities to protect them from the extreme cold during the winter.

Distributed items per family 
Food items: 10 kg of rice, 2 kg of oil, 750 g of salt, 3 kg of sugar, 3 kg of beans, 1 kg of macaroni, 1 kg of tea, 2 kg of canned tomatoes, 1 box of biscuits
Non-food items: Underwear (2 pairs for men, 2 pairs for women, 4 pairs for children), 2 packs of women’s sanitary products, 1 box of detergent, 800 g of soap, 1 unit of hand cream, 3 towels, 1 tub

Kiyoto ONISHI, Deputy Secretary General 
From 1989, worked at the Japanese Embassy in Turkey for 2 years. In 2004, was assigned to work in Afghanistan and engaged in activities concerning mine clearance and mine risk education for 2 years. Since then, has been a part of an array of emergency assistance operations including the earthquake in Pakistan (2005), airstrike in Lebanon (2006), typhoon in the Philippines (2009), flooding in Pakistan (2010), and earthquake in Haiti (2010). (46 years old, born in Hiroshima Prefecture)