Caritas staff distribute coal to families living outside in tents after earthquakes ruined their homes. Photo: Caritas Turkey

Caritas Turkey continues to help people made homeless by two earthquakes in the east of the country. After a second quake struck in early November, thousands of buildings slightly damaged by the October quake became uninhabitable. Many of the residents of the city of Van have fled to other parts of Turkey, but those without means to flee have stayed behind, in many cases without proper shelter or heating.

“Van is a very poor area, and right now the temperate is dropping to -12 C at night,” says Belinda Mumcu of Caritas Turkey. “There are thousands of people living in the cold, staying in overcrowded tents.”

“There is a general distrust of buildings, and so people are staying outdoors,” she continues. “Our Caritas field team notices that even in villages without any significant damage, the inhabitants camp outside.”

Caritas initially distributed diapers, baby food, plastic sheets, coats for children, and other supplies to needy families in villages surrounding Van. After the second quake, Caritas reassessed Van city, inspecting tent camps and using GPS equipment to track places in particular need of shelter and stoves.

Caritas then distributed 100 stoves (with an average of 10 people per tent, the stoves are serving 1000 people) and 5 tons of coal for 160 tents (helping 1600 people). It plans to distribute 500 sets of children’s boots and socks this week.

Moving forward, Caritas plans to repair or rebuild houses and barns in selected buildings, and may also help repair government-run schools. “The conditions for the people are very harsh and difficult,” says Mumcu. “The needs are very high and we will continue to respond.”