Support to Life Foundation provided portable toilets in the aftermath of the Izmir Earthquake

The İzmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund was created with the financial contributions of the Turkey Mozaik  Foundation and the Kahane Foundation to support civil society organizations (CSOs) and their work on the field responding to the emergency situation after the earthquake in the Aegean Sea on October 30, 2020.  

Within the scope of this fund, grant support will be provided to respond to emergency needs as well as medium and long-term interventions. The Fund will support the operational costs of  CSOs and/or projects.  Support to Life Foundation was the recipient of the İzmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund.  The aim of the project is to improve sufficient hygiene conditions for the people affected by the earthquake by providing portable toilets for temporary tent/container camp areas. Given the additional risks associated with the COVID-19  outbreak, STL observed the need to provide additional portable toilets and improve periodic disinfection services. Within the scope of the project, 72 portable toilets will be placed in temporary tent camps in Bornova and Bayraklı for a period of 10  days. 

Support to Life Association (STL) arrived at the disaster area right after the earthquake on October 30, 2020 in İzmir. Below is the interview with the Support to Life Association.

Can you tell us about the work and activities you have carried out in the disaster area?

17 hours after the earthquake, our teams arrived at the worst-affected Bornova-Bayraklı region. Upon our arrival, our team started the assessment and needs analysis studies. We quickly completed our detailed assessments under the categories of shelter, heating, health, hygiene and sanitation and protection. We disseminated our reports and shared with all relevant local, national and international stakeholders. Our stakeholders from the Disaster Platform (Afet Platformu), of which we are a member, were also on the field. Together we established a coordination centre and successfully ensured the coordination with all actors in the field such as the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (Afet ve Acil Durum Yönetimi Başkanlığı AFAD), Red Crescent, relevant Ministries and the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality.

Despite the serious size of the damage, we saw that the operation in the field was coordinated and implemented successfully. Those intervention areas that we usually describe as the “gaps in post-disaster services” were limited in case of the İzmir earthquake. One of the needs we identified in the tent camps established by the AFAD and the Metropolitan Municipality for temporary accommodation was the lack of toilet facilities. According to humanitarian aid standards, in a camp area one toilet must be used by a maximum of 20 people; in the worst cases, it can be used by up to 50 people temporarily. Unfortunately, there were not enough toilets in the field in the first days and these standards could not be met. We also addressed the serious risks associated with the possible transmission of the COVID-19 outbreak in the tent areas.

As a result of our field research and interviews, we have identified that the most urgent needs in the region were hygiene kits, the installation of portable toilets, and cash support for vulnerable families whose houses were damaged. The primary supports we provided in the field were shaped around these major needs.

What kind of work did you do with the grant provided by the Turkey Mozaik Foundation under our Izmir Earthquake Emergency Support Fund?

As a result of our coordination meetings, we decided to use this grant to install portable emergency toilets in the camp areas. In line with this objective, we rented and installed 72 portable toilets with handwashing units for 10 days in temporary tent areas in 75. Yüzyıl Park, Hakan Ünal Park, Zeki Müren Park, Öğretmen Evi, Bilal Çakırcalı Park, Barış Manço Park and Paten Pisti. We also made sure that these toilets were regularly disinfected. Considering the risks associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, this was actually an important issue in terms of creating safe shelter conditions by meeting the needs of water and sanitation in a timely and correct manner. With the placement of long-term container toilets by AFAD and the Izmir Metropolitan Municipality, we completed this emergency operation in 10 days.

On January 2020, after the earthquake in Elazığ some civil society organisations and public institutions established the Disaster Platform in order to carry out the emergency response activities in a coordinated and efficient way. We have seen that the Disaster Platform was also active after the Izmir Earthquake. Can you tell us about the importance of this partnership and the work Disaster Platform does?

As the civil society organisations that came together after the Elazığ earthquake, we made our platform more effective day by day by strengthening our collaboration in order to reduce disaster risks and increase the coordination between civil society actors and public institutions in disaster response. We have seen the positive impact of these efforts once again in the Izmir earthquake. We created important examples in the fields of coordination with the public institutions, needs assessment in an organised manner, volunteer management, and fundraising. In addition to our ongoing preparatory activities for a more effective response to disasters, we plan to focus more on pre-disaster risk reduction in the upcoming period as the Disaster Platform.

With the situation reports, STL plays an important role in terms of assessing the situation and needs in the field and informing different stakeholders about them. Can you tell us about the importance of these reports in shaping STL’s emergency response activities?

As you have said, we prepare and disseminate the emergency reports, known as SITREP (situation report), which includes reliable and up-to-date information from the field. The importance of sharing up-to-date and reliable information has several dimensions. These efforts play a significant role in informing the public, the national and international media as well as mobilising the donations and solidarity that occurs after the disaster in a correct and need-oriented manner. We inform all our stakeholders by disseminating the situation reports, that we prepare and update frequently, both through open sources and directly.

After any disaster, many institutions and organisations from Turkey and abroad focus on emergency aids and offer in-kind or monetary support. These institutions and organisations try to learn the situation in the field including the damage that has occurred and the emergency needs. When they see that the needs highlighted in these reports intersect with their sectoral expertise and they are in a position to allocate resources; they contact us. We start planning the relevant intervention and quickly move on to the program application phase.

What will STL’s priorities before 2021?

As the STL, we have programme areas such as Refugee SupportChild Protection in Seasonal Agriculture, and Capacity Building which are active in 8 different cities across Turkey. In addition to implementing these programmes, we aim to be prepared for emergencies and disasters as much as possible and try to respond to urgent needs in case of any disaster. Of course, our wish for 2021 is that there won’t be any such disasters in Turkey and thus we won’t execute any emergency operations.

We will continue to work on building our competencies in emergency situations. In the meantime, we will continue with our work with the Disaster Platform to become disaster resilient and to increase public awareness of disasters. The platform continues coordination meetings periodically and we continue to work collectively under its roof.