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 Turkey: With winter approaching, 500 children of Van's earthquake survivors under threat

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PostSubject: Turkey: With winter approaching, 500 children of Van's earthquake survivors under threat   Tue Oct 15, 2013 4:48 pm

Turkey: With winter approaching, 500 children of Van's earthquake survivors under threat
  11.10.2013 






October 11, 2013

VAN, Turkey's Kurdish region,— Several hundred survivors of the 2011 earthquakes in Turkey’s Kurdish Van province face a harsh winter at their prefabricated living sites, with some 500 children at greatest risk, according to the Gundem Cocuk children’s association.

As temperatures start to drop in the mountainous region in eastern Turkey, some 250 families are battling the cold, living in prefabricated homes that were built for the survivors, the association says.

For the past couple of months the government has cut off electricity to two of the three sites, forcing refugees to battle the cold by wrapping themselves in layers of clothing or blankets.

Without power or heat, the residents are forced to cook their meals in makeshift brick ovens in the open air, the smoke and flames causing health and fire hazards. Using toilets and bathrooms remains difficult and unhygienic. Many residents are on hunger strikes since August, demanding adequate government housing.

After the powerful earthquakes, which struck in October and November 2011, survivors were housed in 34 prefabricated sites. Most of the people were later moved to public housing but 250 families – too poor and disadvantaged to afford even the subsidized homes -- are still waiting to be relocated

The local governor’s office wants the sites dismantled. It has ordered the residents to move, offering them temporary help with rent. They have refused,www.ekurd.net and after the governor’s office cut off electricity some of the survivors began a hunger strike in late August.

Gundem Cocuk says it is the children who are suffering most and are most at risk during the coming winter. The association, whose name in Turkish means “the agenda is children,” says that children’s physical and psychological health are both affected by conditions at the sites.

“It is so cold at night that I am sick. We are scared, thinking what we will do in winter,” said a seven-year old child at one of the sites.

“We leave bottles under the sun and try to heat them for hot water to wash” said an 11-year-old.

“Our parents want a home for us. That is why they are on a hunger strike. Me and my friends have not had a shower for a week,” said another eight-year-old. I wake up at night and scream, fearing another earthquake.”

The hunger strike was turned into a fast until death on September 11. About 15- 20 people continue the hunger strike on alternate days.

Other problems for children include schooling, Gundem Cocuk says. None of the children is able to go register for classes because their place of residence at the sites is not recognized as a valid address.

“I want to go to school so much. We went to school and asked the principal to enroll us, but he wouldn’t,” said a seven-year-old at the camp.

“Even if we went to school, how could we study by candlelight?” asked another child.

By Uzay Bulut - Rudaw

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