One year after the earthquakes in Turkey & Syria: The disaster is far from over

February 6 marks the anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, in which around 60,000 people lost their lives. STELP is supporting reconstruction efforts on the ground.

February 6 marks the anniversary of the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, in which around 60,000 people lost their lives. On an area almost as large as Germany, the quakes left behind a field of rubble and a trail of destruction. Serkan Eren, the founder of STELP, was on site just a few hours after the quakes. “The images and, above all, the smells went right to the marrow of my bones and have stayed with me to this day,” says the crisis-tested activist.

Many of the provinces are still full of rubble and uninhabitable. “There is still a lack of almost everything in the affected cities. There are still virtually no homes that are ready. There is a complete lack of infrastructure such as water pipes. And above all, there are no prospects for the people. Almost everyone has lost their jobs,” explains Eren.

1614 people live in the STELP container village

Most people were initially accommodated in container villages. STELP built one of these container villages in collaboration with the Turkish sports club Galatasaray Istanbul. It is located in Kahramanmaraş, one of the epicenters of the quakes. 1614 people have found a new temporary home there. “We are doing everything we can to make it as bearable as possible for people,” emphasizes Eren. The STELP container village therefore has a soccer pitch and basketball court, playgrounds for the children and a marketplace. “There is no one who was not affected by this disaster. There was no one who didn’t lose a close relative or at least a good friend or acquaintance. An entire country has been traumatized,” he continues. This is why psychological support is also offered in the container villages.

Last year, STELP received around 1.5 million euros in donations for aid on the ground in Turkey and Syria. Around 60,000 euros were used for acute disaster relief, such as the purchase of blankets, tents or water. The majority of the donations will go towards reconstruction and longer-term housing projects. STELP has invested over 700,000 euros in the container village in Kahramanmaraş, for example. “Reconstruction is extremely expensive. But the willingness to donate has unfortunately declined enormously. There is less attention for the people on the ground, but that doesn’t mean that the people there are suffering any less,” says Eren.

“Children who receive psychological support are a rarity”

“This catastrophe is far from over,” he continues. “Especially for the children and young people affected. Children who receive psychological support are a rarity,” says Eren. The current situation has a considerable impact on the (psychological) development opportunities of children and young people and will also affect the educational opportunities of children in the affected regions. STELP is therefore supporting the Intercultural Social Service (ISS) network in Samandağ, Hatay province, in the construction of a multilingual daycare center for 100 children between the ages of one and six.

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