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Destruction in Antakya, Hatay, Türkiye shown less than a week since a deadly earthquakes hit the country on Feb. 6, 2023. Credit: Randa Ghazy/Save the Children.

Lack of Clean Water, Toilets, Puts Earthquake Survivors, Particularly Children, in Türkiye at Risk of Disease

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Feb. 13, 2023)—Areas of Türkiye worst affected by last week’s devastating earthquakes urgently need humanitarian aid in order to prevent a secondary public health emergency, said Save the Children.

Thousands of people are without safe drinking water and sanitation facilities such as running water and toilets. In these conditions, there is a risk of waterborne disease outbreaks, which would be particularly deadly to children.

Randa Ghazy, Regional Media Manager at Save the Children, is in Antakya, Hatay, one of the worst-affected areas in Türkiye. The organization has been working in the area since 2015 in close collaboration with local government, municipality, and other stakeholders. Randa said:

“Many people in affected areas don’t have access to toilets or sanitation facilities, putting them at risk of waterborne diseases, which are particularly deadly for children. I spoke to parents in the areas around Antakya who are sleeping in cars and community centers. They told me that their children are vomiting, so there’s a real concern that some children are already falling ill.

“The issue is compounded by the lack of health services, as many hospitals have been destroyed and those which are still standing are overwhelmed with thousands of injured people. Hospitals are also running short on medical supplies and fuel to operate. They won’t be able to cope with a waterborne disease outbreak, and children will be in the greatest danger.

“It’s psychologically difficult for survivors to live in these conditions. Without access to sanitation facilities, people have no choice other than to go to the toilet outside. Women and girls are having to manage their periods without privacy, clean water, and sanitary products—it’s incredibly stressful.”

Marielle Snel, Senior Global Humanitarian Water Sanitation and Hygiene Advisor for Save the Children, said:

“People in the earthquake-affected areas urgently need safe drinking water and latrines. It’s challenging as water pipes are broken. Once the latrines are in place, waste needs to be safely disposed of to avoid risk of waterborne and vector-borne diseases.

“Sanitation facilities need to be built in a way that considers the safety of women and girls. There needs to be adequate privacy and lighting so they can use facilities without feeling unsafe.”

Save the Children is in Türkiye distributing food, temporary shelter items, and essential emergency relief items, including blankets, warm clothing, sleeping bags, heaters, diapers, and sanitary towels. The organization is also bringing in a team of water, sanitation, and hygiene specialists who will assess the needs on the ground, and also support the government in its response.

In Türkiye and Syria, Save the Children is planning to reach a total of 1.6 million people, including 675,000 children. This includes 1.1 million people, including 550,000, children in Syria, and 500,000 people, including 125,000 children, in Türkiye.


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