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Sarah Clune Hartman
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The devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria have left more than 5 million people without homes, compounding the region's humanitarian disaster. Ayham Taha, of the international humanitarian organization CARE, joins John Yang from southeastern Turkey to discuss what survivors need most right now and efforts to get aid to affected areas.
Devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria has left more than 5 million people without homes, compounding the region's humanitarian disaster.
Earlier, I spoke with Ayham Taha, who is with CARE, the international humanitarian organization. He's in Mardin in southeastern Turkey. I asked him what survivors need most.
Ayham Taha, Technical Adviser, CARE:
The need is diverse, especially when we speak about northwest India, which is affected, as well as the south of Turkey. The common sense between both sides of the border is the same pain and also the lack of shelter, whether it is a temporary shelter or it is a permanent shelter.
We have received several requests from different peer organizations, partners and also authorities asking for shelter, including tents, blankets, mattresses and of course, food items. We are also looking at addressing women specific needs with hygiene kits and also taking care of children, especially their nutrition aspects, because they are very sensitive to food consumption gaps.
You told me you're in your car because the hotel where you're staying is so crowded, you couldn't find a quiet place. Are temporary shelters being set up? Is there any long term thought, given that so many buildings have collapsed, that they're going to have to do something long term for housing?
Some buildings were immediately damaged, collapsed. Some of them are evaluated that they will be collapsing soon. Some of them are high risk to enter and some of them need immediate rehabilitation and some maintenance. Then it will be safe to access. This will take months and months. So that's why we evacuated.
We spent a few days, of course, in the car, like two or three days. People are still who are staying in Gaziantep, they are still spending the time in cars. Or there was provided collective shelter, like mosques, basketball courts, schools. Now, at some open spaces there was established tents for those who are preferring tents, they have no access to other options.
Tell us about the efforts to feed these people as well.
Access to food items, commodities and drinking water was not possible at the first 24 hours. But some restaurants decided on a personal initiative to open and cook some warm soup distributed to people. And they distributed some rice, an apple Perry cider, something like that. That was only for the local neighborhood. And that meant to me personally a lot, because otherwise we will be eating only canned food that we brought from whatever accessible place we shared in the open space.
I should ask, Ayham, how is your house? Did your house survive the earthquake?
I found it standing, but there was some cracks in the walls. I'm not an engineer, so I'm expecting the building to be assessed again. Then we can assure whether it is safe to go back or not. I can tell you that my son, for example, lost trust in that wall in his room, and I'm not sure if I ever will go back to that house again.
Ayham, we heard early on of difficulties getting relief aid into Syria. The government insisting that it all flow through them. Has that been resolved and is aid now flowing easily into Syria or are there still problems?
So basically, yes, the area is very much affected and it requires immediate support no matter what are the entry points. We encourage that every single possible entry point to deliver aid should be used because we are speaking about the World worst strabbed on set natural disaster in over a decade.
In Syria, for example, we are not speaking about only earthquake. Before a few days the earthquake, we were reading reports about cholera, acute food insecurity, like lack of education, many issues. And of course, this is a war zone still. These regions are refugees that have been displaced several times. And in Syria we are speaking about 4.5 million that are dependent on aid. They don't have sustainable livelihoods. So they are actually now without any support. They feel that they were left behind.
As you say, this is going to take a very long time. Are you concerned that in the long run there won't be the resources you need?
To be honest, I have seen a lot of communities sending in solidarity with other communities like the Turkish and Syrian that are in need now.
Yes, the crisis in Syria and Turkey is huge. It's massive. That doesn't mean that I should contribute with a massive amount to support. Me as a person, I should know and be aware that 1 pound or dollar counts. It is a mattress, it is a blanket. It is one hot meal that will make a child sleep, not being hungry, or he will be sleeping warm or he will not sleep on the floor.
Ayham Taha of CARE. Ayham, we thank you very, very much, and we are all thinking of your family, and all those you're trying to help.
Thank you very much.
For ways to help survivors of the earthquake, visit Pbs.org/NewsHour.
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John Yang is the anchor of PBS News Weekend and a correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. He covered the first year of the Trump administration and is currently reporting on major national issues from Washington, DC, and across the country.
Kaisha Young is a general assignment producer at PBS News Weekend.
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