Committed to Meeting the Needs of Refugees
CARE is committed to helping the Turkish Government and the international community meet the needs of the new refugees who have recently fled ongoing violence in Kobane (Ain al Arab), Syria. These new arrivals have added to an already-severe refugee crisis in Turkey - most observers believe that well over one million registered and unregistered Syrians have already taken refuge in the country since 2011. The CARE team is making good progress distributing humanitarian aid to refugees from Kobane. On October 3, the eve of the Eid holiday, I visited some of the nearly 1,000 families who have received food and blankets from CARE over the past few days.
After the drive south from the small city of Suruç in southeastern Turkey, we visited two lonely tents in the middle of a desolate field between vast swathes of cotton cultivation about three kilometers from the Syrian border. Forty-five people, mostly women and children, were staying in the two tents, one large and one small. A middle-aged man came over to talk with us. “We lost everything,” he said. “They killed our animals.” The aid that they are currently receiving will get them through coming days, but humanitarian actors need to step up efforts in order to meet growing need while helping those already here who have no means to earn livelihoods in Turkey.
In a nearby village, an unfinished mosque structure served as a collective center for about 200 women and children. An elderly woman with Kurdish facial tattoos hung back and looked on, surrounded by a group of squirming children. A younger woman told us that most of them had left Kobane ten days before to escape the fighting. “A lot of people have died,” she added, “there is constant shelling.” While we spoke we could hear the repetitive percussion of the fighting across the border in the distance. Women and children are particularly vulnerable in armed conflict, and many of the women have been forced to flee without their husbands. Many of those crossing the border report seeing and experiencing horrible things and they carry psychological scars that need to be addressed.
Near the MurÅitpinar border crossing, we provided supplies to twelve people crowded into a small building in sight of the City of Kobane across the border. Some men wore western clothes while others wore the turbans typical of the Kurds. We could hear loud shelling from Kobane while one man told us that his home was a mere three kilometers away across the border but he and his family were unable to return because of the fighting. Many of the recently arrived refugees are remaining close to the border, fervently hoping that they will soon be able to return and rebuild their shattered lives. Their stress is accentuated by the uncertainty of not knowing what they will find when they return.
Food, blankets, hygiene kits, and other vital supplies provided by the Turkish Government, CARE, and other national and international organizations are easing the suffering of the Kobane refugees, but thousands of people are in great need and current relief supplies cannot match the demand. And even though the city of Kobane and nearby villages have been largely depopulated because of recent fighting, new arrivals continue to cross the border. While continuing to distribute the assistance we already have on hand, we are planning for a longer-term response to help support the growing number of urban refugees in Turkey.
Writen by John Uniack Davis, CARE Country Director in Turkey