Charity groups say that the aftermath of two devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have left many people homeless, and increased the likelihood of a food and nutrition crisis.
Many people were forced to live in temporary tents and cars after the earthquake and its aftershocks last October destroyed or severely damaged at least 156,000 buildings in Turkey. This quake also killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria.
Charities were quick to offer hot meals, bread loaves and water.
Action Against Hunger, which is supported in part by the Disaster Emergencies Committee, distributed ready-to eat rations sourced directly from nearby cities, including canned chickpeas and chicken, tuna, vegetables, and fruit to disaster hotspots located in southeast Turkey. Action Against Hunger provided nearly 2,000kg of fresh food and 2,500kg of dry food.
While food baskets are essential in helping survivors stay strong and healthy, they don’t always include the usual food that is consumed in the area.
Action Against Hunger set up a kitchen in Beyoglu near Kahramanmaras, the epicenter of the tremors. It is located next to a field where homeless people camp after losing their homes.
Ana Mora Segura, a spokesperson from Action Against Hunger, said that the kitchen helps people to rebuild their senses of community during times of crisis. She has been in Turkey ever since the earthquake.
Sky News interviewer: She says that “the places people have known all their lives are either destroyed or gone which is very disruptive. So being able to come together and take action on their own to provide for their needs is the first step in rebuilding the community.”
It has provided meals for 3,000 people per day, using ingredients that are typical of the Mediterranean diet. This includes fresh food and local dishes containing oil and olives, yoghurt and fruit, vegetables, and grains.
It provides comfort for those still affected by the disaster.
“This community kitchen provides me with security because we know that we’re getting hot meals at a specific time every day and assistance on a regular basis,” said a 20-year old Turkish man who has been living in the tents since the earthquake.
“We feel very secure in the tents due to the security forces in this area.”
Local food provides people with a sense of normality
The foods in a typical aid kit are appreciated by those who need them, but providing local food has helped people feel normal, according to Cristina Izquierdo (nutrition and health coordinator for Action Against Hunger’s emergency team).
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Sky News’s Sheryl says, “These people are the most resilient.” “Some people give everything to others… It’s a sense of support that brings hope.
“People are thankful for their existence and want to help their community.”
Other ways that the community centre supports people who are displaced include clothing, heaters, and hygiene items like sanitary pads, baby wipes, and soap.
“I have work to complete here”
Akif is one of the volunteers in this kitchen. He heard about the disaster and needed help in Beyoglu where many houses had been destroyed.
He left his restaurant in Soke on Turkey’s Aegean Coast and travelled with his friends to set up the community kitchen.
Akif states, “My friends tells me to go home, but my family’s safe, that is why I came.” “I have work to complete here.”
Akif and other volunteers prepared the packages for distribution in nearby mountain villages as well as to families who stayed close to their homes that had been destroyed.
Building a sense community during times of crisis
Ms. Izquierdo said that people were initially very humble and asked for rice. However, they were asked about their diet and what items they would like the charity to provide. This included fresh food, vegetables and products for children, such as yoghurt or other dairy products.
There are many dishes to choose from, including Turkish rice with sehriye (a pasta that is similar to vermicelli), and chickpea, tomato, and chickpea soup.
Action Against Hunger warns that the likelihood of widespread food insecurity has risen in the wake of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Access to food is becoming more difficult than before the disaster, as many people have lost homes, jobs, and livelihoods. In Syria, people are also facing the continuing effects of the 12-year-old civil war and the damage caused by the earthquake.