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More than US$2 million collected for Turkey, Syria after earthquake

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Rotary members continue to provide relief a year later to those affected


A year after the most powerful earthquake in nearly a century devastated parts of Turkey and Syria, Rotary members have helped people rebuild with container homes for hundreds of families, hospital equipment, and other essential support.

A special disaster relief fund created by The Rotary Foundation, now closed to contributions, raised more than US$2 million from donors around the world and funded about 60 grants that have allowed Rotary members to provide shelter, medical care, and other necessities.

The earthquake on 6 February 2023 killed more than 55,000 people and affected 15 million others across southern Turkey and northern Syria. Hundreds of thousands of people are still living in temporary settlements in Turkey and are enduring a second winter without homes or access to clean water and sanitation facilities. In Syria, the earthquake exacerbated a humanitarian crisis where millions of people were already in need due to conflict, economic crisis, and epidemics.

Many clubs and districts have organized humanitarian initiatives guided by Rotarians in the affected areas. The three districts in Turkey worked together to implement projects totaling US$10 million.

Immediately after the earthquake, Rotarians in Turkey set up three tent cities to provide temporary shelter for 2,000 families. The districts have since used US$50,000 disaster response grants coupled with other funds to establish two container cities while providing support for a third container city built by the local government in Ankara.

Each container city includes units from large shipping containers for 110 families equipped with beds, mattresses, air conditioning units, water heaters, refrigerators, toilets, a bathtub, and kitchens. The Rotarians also built mobile kindergartens and prefabricated schools, a medical clinic, and a laundry facility in or near the container cities.

Refik Kutluer, president of the Rotary Club of Ankara International, says his club arranged for six children whose limbs were amputated from injuries suffered in the earthquake to receive prosthetic limbs at hospitals in the United States. The treatments were provided at no cost to the families.

“All these children have returned home and are again able to walk,” Kutluer says. “They continue to express their gratitude to Rotary saying that after the earthquake, they felt hopeless, but now they have been restored to life.”

The Ankara International club also provided a mobile science laboratory and classroom for Ata College, almost completely destroyed by the earthquake. The school lost 26 students, two teachers, and two staff members in the quake. Classes are being held in prefabricated buildings.

“All the students are earthquake victims trying to heal while attending classes,” Kutluer says. “The school is like a home to them, and they are thankful for those who have reached out with love and respect.”

Rotary and Rotaract members have also purchased essential equipment for a hospital in Antakya. Using two US$50,000 grants, District 2430 provided an ultrasound machine that hospital administrators requested as well as equipment to perform colonoscopies and endoscopies.

A year after the earthquakes, Rotary members are continuing to respond.

- February 2024