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Turkey: Restoring lives in communities impacted by earthquakes.
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Turkey: Restoring lives in communities impacted by earthquakes.

Although debris has been removed, the city still has an eerie emptiness that is gradually being filled with community life, thanks to support from the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Fortunately, Emel and her family were able to make it through, but it came with the heartbreaking sacrifice of losing all they cherished.

“My spouse and I recently purchased a new home, having lived with his parents for an extended period of time,” she explained. “Unfortunately, our house was completely destroyed and we were unable to salvage any belongings.”

Emel sits in her living room.

© IOM/Olga Borzenkova

Emel is seated in her living room.

‘Container’ cities

They currently live in a designated area called a “container city,” which is a makeshift shelter located near the city center. This community houses over 4,500 people who were displaced by the earthquakes and left without homes.

Emel greets guests as they enter her recently acquired residence, a fully furnished two-room container with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. Due to the number of people in her family, which includes children ranging from six to 17 years old, they were given a larger container with more living space.

She remembers with great affection that the day they relocated to their new, though temporary, residence happened to fall on the same day as the Eid celebrations. The community was filled with a happy energy, despite the hardships that the residents had endured.

Vefa, Neslihan and Emel (left to right) at work at the laundromat.

© IOM/Olga Borzenkova

Vefa, Neslihan, and Emel (in order from left to right) are currently working at the laundromat.

Refreshed feeling of motivation

Once she had adjusted to her new surroundings, she secured a job at a public laundry facility. She is now employed alongside other residents named Neslihan and Vefa. In addition to providing her with a steady income, this job has also brought her various advantages.

She mentioned that her mental well-being has greatly benefited from working at this company. Each day, she feels a sense of direction and enjoys the company of her coworkers, who are also her neighbors.

Neslihan and Vefa share the same feelings about their recent employment. The three of them work hard at the laundromat during the week, starting at 8am and finishing at 5pm, and also work a half-day on Saturdays. They reserve Sundays for spending quality time with their families.

Children of different ages spend time in the settlement's library.

© IOM/Olga Borzenkova

Kids of varying ages frequent the library in the settlement.

Sprawling with activity

The settlement is gradually increasing in activity. In addition to recent upgrades to infrastructure, the community now has a school, library, computer lab, sports facilities, recreational areas, and a center for children.

Thanks to the child-friendly facility, Emel, Neslihan, and Vefa no longer have to be concerned about finding childcare while they are working.

During the summer season, the center introduced drawing and handicraft classes. As the school year resumes, teachers are now providing kindergarten lessons in order to minimize interruptions to children’s education.

An example of a container that serves as homes and public spaces in settlements..

© IOM/Miko Alazas

A type of structure that serves as both residences and communal areas in communities.

Temporary homes for thousands

Without the use of prefabricated containers, it would not be feasible to resume these public services and provide temporary housing for hundreds of people.

As of October 2023, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has transported more than 830 containers to government agencies. These containers have been distributed among the four provinces most impacted by the earthquake: Adiyaman, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, and Malatya.

Ibrahim Timurtas, IOM’s National Area Operations Officer, stated that the organization collaborates closely with authorities to guarantee the delivery of containers to the most necessary locations. These containers are not only essential for providing shelter, but also for helping residents feel a sense of normality in a new setting.

Pleased with improvements

As the winter season approaches, the three women are content with the positive changes in their lives and the various resources and comforts provided in their community.

Neslihand stated that for a period of three months, they resided in a home shared with two families. She also mentioned that the containers in their current location are significantly better than the living conditions they experienced following the earthquakes.

Despite the courage required to begin anew, Emel, Neslihan, and Vefa are making the most of new opportunities in their communities while still holding onto the hope of one day owning homes of their own once more.