Turkey earthquake, Italian aid worker: “half of the country has become a refugee camp”

Chiari (Amal For Education), “housing emergency is the main problem”

“Half of Turkey has become a sort of refugee camp” after millions of people left the south-eastern area most affected by the devastating earthquake of last February 6, which caused over 45,000 deaths. This was stated to Adnkronos by Isabella Chiari, founder and president of Amal for Education, an Italian NGO dedicated to the development and promotion of projects to support education in conflict areas and which after the earthquake expanded its range of action, having distributed “44 thousand meals” to the inhabitants of villages and rural areas least reached by aid.

The NGO, which has been operating since 2013 and has two base centers in Turkey, one in Kilis and another in Gaziantep, will soon launch a new project concerning psycho-social support for people living in tents, explains Chiari, according to whom a month after the earthquake there is a “very serious problem” of lack of housing. Many unsafe buildings continue to be demolished and “there is an increase” in people living in tents. In Kilis, for example, “there is no ordinary accommodation available”, continues the aid worker, who speaks of a “huge movement” of people from the most affected cities such as Iskenderun, Antakya, Islahiye, Samandag, Nurdagi, Diyarbakir and Kahramanmaras towards areas considered safer such as Kilis itself, Mersin and Adana.

“The consequence is the difficulty of these areas to absorb a very high number of people both from the point of view of housing and employment”, says the founder of Amal for Education, noting that only in Kilis there has been a population increase of 27% which translated into practice it means housing emergency and tent city.

Chiari, who while on the phone says he felt yet another aftershock, also highlights the difficulties of life in rural areas “remained as they were a month ago” and where aid is struggling to arrive. On the controversy that flared up in Turkey due to the alleged delay in the government’s response, Chiari believes that “no country in the world was ready for a crisis of such proportions. I don’t have the tools to judge, but one element for reflection is that the Turkish civil protection ( Afad) thanks to the experience gained with Syrian refugees, has enormous experience in managing the camps, while perhaps economically there is no ability to respond”.

On the recovery prospects of the area devastated by the earthquake, the aid worker – who hopes for an immediate reconstruction plan – believes that “the consequences will be felt for tens of years” as the seriousness of the situation does not suggest short-term solutions. “Some smaller cities have been razed and emptied, they lack basic services of some kind – she says – People can’t even communicate with relatives because in the flight they lost phones or identity cards”.

And in the surrounding areas, life is struggling to return to normal. “Schools have reopened in Kilis but no one goes. They are practically empty. And these are because people are still very afraid since there continue to be tremors, even of significant magnitude”, she concludes.