Hatay, 4 August 2023 – The first earthquake that slammed into South-East Türkiye in early February, collapsed Necati’s two-storey home before his eyes.
“We barely managed to escape in ten seconds,” says the retired accountant, who lived with his stepmother in Hassa, a small city in Hatay, the province hit hardest by the disaster.
“We lost ten neighbours – five Turkish and five Syrians – who were our very close friends.”
The deadliest earthquakes in the region’s modern history claimed the lives of tens of thousands and left many more homeless.
Six months later, Necati remembers vividly how they sought refuge with 15 other survivors in a makeshift tent, which offered little protection from cold, sub-zero winter temperatures.
Today, Necati and his stepmother have moved to a government-run settlement of 90 so-called relief housing units (RHUs), provided by Swedish nonprofit Better Shelter and funded by the IKEA Foundation. Leveraging its expertise in humanitarian logistics, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) delivered the units to national partners and provided training and support assembling them.
The shelters offer survivors dignity and privacy, keeping them warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot outside. The shelter is equipped with a lightweight roof and wall panels, a lockable door and a solar-powered lamp and charger.
"Considering the circumstances, we now live in the best conditions possible," says Necati, choosing to remain positive.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, their daily lives involve sharing breakfast and relaxed chats with neighbours in the warm sunlight. As one day turns into the next, they find solace in this newfound community.
As some of Necati’s friends return to Hassa, he is hopeful his homeland will rebuild.
“Hatay is our homeland. As long as we exist, so does our Hatay and our strong Türkiye. Hopefully, we will again stand tall together. We will be there for one another once again,” he says.
Mustafa, his wife and four children live in a shelter unit nearby. Twelve years ago, his life was upended by the Syrian conflict and his family sought refuge in Türkiye. They managed to build a new life; Mustafa worked in construction until an unfortunate injury confined him to a wheelchair.
After everything he has gone through, Mustafa didn’t think he would be able to survive the earthquakes. The only thing he cared about in that moment was the safety of his wife and children.
“I told my children and my wife to run and leave me behind. I begged them to run before anything could happen to them because of me,” he says.
Dressed only in their pyjamas, the family stuck together and helped each other escape their house and survive through the rain and subsequent earthquakes and aftershocks. After moving from one tent to another, they finally settled down in their current shelter.
While the road to recovery is a long one, Mustafa and his family go about daily routines with gratitude that they are still alive.
In times of crisis, providing shelter and relief items, establishing hygiene facilities and organizing settlements to make them liveable for everyone – including the elderly and people with disabilities – is crucial.
In total, IOM, Better Shelter and the IKEA Foundation have joined forces to deploy 450 relief housing units, bringing a ray of hope to those facing uncertain futures.
"We are grateful to work alongside Better Shelter, utilizing our supply chain capacity to bring aid to those in need,” says Gerard Waite, IOM Türkiye’s Chief of Mission. “Together, we can make a difference and offer assistance where it matters most. With scorching summer temperatures, the need for dignified shelters remains high as we strive toward recovery."
Märta Terne, Head of Communications at Better Shelter, expresses how the partnership ensured quick assistance for those without a home: “IOM’s wide presence on the ground has facilitated the swift deployment of shelters to areas severely impacted by the earthquake. Through their efforts, many people who lost their homes now have a safe, yet temporary, place to live and to be with their families until they can transition into a permanent house.”
Necati, Mustafa and their loved ones remain resilient and looking ahead.
“I am hopeful for the future. Anyone with faith and patience can live,” says Mustafa. “We will move forward with our lives. It’s the only thing we can do.”
Alongside other humanitarian actors, IOM supports national efforts to create dignified living conditions for displaced populations in the earthquake zones. IOM co-leads the Temporary Settlement Support sector to help maintain the sites and address the immediate needs. Additionally, IOM utilizes its supply chain and logistics capacity to timely deliver in-kind donations and aid, while reinforcing support for early recovery.
Written by Olga Borzenkova, IOM Türkiye Communications Officer