There is a shortage of medical care here as all the hospitals were destroyed.

Woah … it is so hot today! It will be 97. The mosquitos are bad. We all have bites all over us. We are about halfway through our Türkiye commitment for team 1. Team 2 arrives Oct 6 and I leave for Istanbul Oct 8.

This is a hard one, mostly due to the environment. The heat, the bugs, the toxic dust, the scorpions. The smell of death in areas where bodies are waiting to be recovered knocks you over. I have had a mild headache for days. We are going to a different Syrian camp today that has over 1350 kids registered and expect to see the same issues of skin disease, impetigo, scabies, ringworm, fungus, staph infections, respiratory issues. I expect we will be very busy.

The camps we are in now are in a Syrian area where before the quake there were over 50,000 Syrians and they set up their own camps without assistance from the government. I do see many blue tents, however, that are a donation from China. Very few UNHCR tents are here. We see a Save the Children car near these camps but have not yet had a conversation with them. There are orphaned kids and orphaned mothers. Trafficking is an issue we hear. The demolition is going slow, the people complain about the government, but truly it can only go so fast. The devastation is total in many areas entire communities flattened all over this region.

It is funny to use the GPS because streets in some areas are still registered as streets and we find them a pile of rubble impassable in our van. Some people, being frustrated and due to the discomfort of tent living, have moved into unsafe buildings. I passed a man in a chair on a balcony on the 3rd floor where there was a huge hole in the building and the floors above partially missing. The government has promised to help homeowners rebuild but that leaves a multitude of renters out. There is still a shortage of medical care here as all the hospitals were destroyed or severely damaged. The government did build a new public hospital that just opened last month. It is still under construction and we all wonder what corners were cut in order to build.

Valerie Hellermann

Reflections from the Hands on Global team in Turkey.