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One Year Later: Türkiye Earthquake Survivors Heal Together

Dilvin Hammil in front of the WGSS container in Malatya.
© UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

It’s been one year since catastrophic earthquakes struck Türkiye in February 2023 and left a staggering impact on 9.1 million people in the region. UNFPA swiftly mobilized to provide vital support to women and girls through our safe spaces.

All year, despite difficult conditions, these units remained steadfast in their support of women and girls, ensuring no lapse in sexual and reproductive health care or mental health support. Join us one year later as we hear from earthquake survivors who, thanks to your generous contributions, received the support they needed.

Filiz

Filiz Ürkmez. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Filiz Ürkmez. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

“Women here cannot be very open about their emotions although they face several problems. They even have to make many sacrifices and put their health aside to prioritize the needs of their kids as healthcare services are disrupted severely,” Fliz, a resilient 43-year-old mother, told UNFPA fieldworkers, in the aftermath of the earthquake.  

Filiz demonstrated extraordinary strength during the earthquakes. When tremors rocked her home, she found herself at the epicenter of destruction, yet her instinct was to help others. She ran to the hospital to lend a hand, but instead was confronted by a second earthquake. Navigating damaged roads, she returned home, only to find her children had left the city for safety.

We encountered Filiz at a safe space, where she actively engages with UNFPA field workers to access health information and learn about family planning. With the support of the safe space, Filiz has been able to access crucial health care services. She is grateful for the specialized support she and fellow women receive.

Zeynep

Zeynep, a Türkiye earthquake survivor. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Zeynep, a Türkiye earthquake survivor. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

A 47-year-old single mother in Malatya, Zeynep faced many hardships leading up to the earthquake. “I was married off as a child to a stranger. Abuse from my husband made my life unbearable,” she shared. After her husband left her and her children, Zeynep grappled with her son’s substance abuse and the violence it brought into their lives. On top of that, she was battling uterine cancer. The earthquake compounded all of her strife, leaving Zeynep and her family without a home.

In a seemingly hopeless time, she found a lifeline in our safe space. During her darkest moments, Nilüfer, a health mediator, became her “white angel,” shouldering Zeynep’s burdens alongside her.

“She was there when I needed someone most, providing essential help during dire times” Zeynep recalls. “They were my ray of hope, helping my son with treatment, guiding me through tough times.”

Nilüfer

Nilüfer, in front of the WGSS container. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Nilüfer, in front of the safe space. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

An inspirational figure at the safe space in Malatya, Nilüfer offers support to women and girls in the area who survived the Türkiye earthquakes. Her journey began as a volunteer in 2005 and has since evolved into a role as a local representative.

Reflecting on the chaos of the earthquake, she shared, “We were grateful to be alive, but the collapse of our homes and the painful wait for trapped relatives was heartbreaking.”

Nilüfer has found solace and healing through helping other women and she and her team show no signs of stopping. “We have never ceased our efforts; we are reaching every corner, every district, and will continue to do so.”

Kısmet 

At a sexual and reproductive health training session, Kısmet speaks up. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
At a sexual and reproductive health training session, Kısmet speaks up. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

Kısmet survived the earthquake with her two children. Sadly, they lost their home, and for six months lived in a tent, without basic healthcare or hygiene. She attended our sexual and reproductive health training at a safe space and gained knowledge that not only helped her care for her family, but also a pregnant friend in need.

“The center taught us many things we didn’t know about staying healthy. I want to help others with this knowledge,” Kısmet said.

Azize

Azize in front of the WGSS transportation van. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Azize in front of the safe space transportation van. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

Azize’s remarkable journey from a Syrian refugee to UNFPA fieldworker epitomizes resilience and compassion. After fleeing the war in 2013, she arrived in Türkiye, pursued a nursing degree, and gained Turkish citizenship. In the aftermath of the earthquakes, she has dedicated her life to empowering women.

In her role at the safe space, Azize visits earthquake survivors to provide reproductive health services and prenatal care. She is tireless in her efforts to reach women throughout the region.

Ferize

Ferize, a Türkiye earthquake survivor, in the WGSS container. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Ferize, a Türkiye earthquake survivor, at the safe space. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

At just 16 years old, Ferize arrived in Türkiye as a Syrian refugee. During her first four years in the country, she stayed in the Adana refugee camp and eventually made it to Malatya where she found her own apartment. Not long after, the earthquakes struck. She lost everything and had no other choice but to move into a tent, and then a container.

Ferize is now eight months pregnant and receiving support and health care supplies from our safe space. “They teach us about nursing, prenatal care, childbirth, and breastfeeding,” she said.

Dilvin

Dilvin standing in front of the WGSS container. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Dilvin standing in front of the WGSS container. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

Following the Türkiye earthquakes, Dilvin faced numerous challenges. The safe space became a haven for her.

Amid the rubble, her youngest son sustained an injury that affected his vision. While she worried for him, she also faced abuse from her husband’s family. We provided her with family planning services, dignity kits, and mental health support for Dilvin’s children.

Nesrin

Nesrin in front of a transportation van in Doğanşehir. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz
Nesrin in front of a transportation van in Doğanşehir. © UNFPA Türkiye/Eren Korkmaz

In the aftermath of the earthquake, 24-year-old Nesrin’s life was turned upside down. Her family’s home was torn apart. Despite the shock, she continued attending nursing school so that she might help others. A year later, she graduated from university and came to the safe space to support women and girls as a nurse.

Even though she too was an earthquake survivor, and faced the same devastation and loss as the women and girls she was serving, Nesrin was unwavering in her care. Going door to door in Malatya, she tirelessly informed residents about the services available to them. Thanks to her efforts, women and girls received the care they needed.

Supporting Earthquake Survivors in Türkiye

Your contributions made all the difference for these survivors of the Türkiye earthquakes – and they are just some of the women and girls you’ve reached with care. We continue to support survivors there and wherever lifesaving sexual and reproductive health care is needed most.Thank you for your continued support of the women and girls in Türkiye and across the globe.

Dani Spencer
For the health and
dignity of women and girls

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