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08.03.2023

In Türkiye, Hope Returns in Clean Water

In rural villages of southern Türkiye, Project HOPE is installing solar water chlorination points to help tens of thousands of earthquake survivors access safe drinking water.

By Emma Schwartz

It has been more than five months since a series of major earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria.

The initial 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near Gaziantep was felt as far away as Egypt and Lebanon and is one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded in Türkiye. The disaster killed more than 55,000 people and led to a widespread humanitarian emergency, displacing millions and cutting off access to essential services like power, food, electricity, and safe drinking water.

In Türkiye, millions of people continue to struggle with reliable access to potable water. This need is especially acute for those living in rural villages, which have seen an increase in population due to displacement spurred by the earthquake — some by five times or more.

“Destroyed or disrupted water infrastructure can expose people to preventable health risks and may lead to the transmission of diseases such as cholera and typhoid,” says Adam Jacovou, Türkiye Country Director for Project HOPE. “This is compounded by the fact that the earthquake has resulted in worsened living conditions for many in these locations.”

Project HOPE is working to ensure the provision of clean water in health facilities and in informal settlements in rural areas. The team has installed 50 solar water chlorination systems, which are helping provide access to safe water for more than 42,000 people in southern Türkiye.

woman running up hill to a damaged home
Project HOPE Senior Program Manager Nezahat Yildirim at one of the 50 solar water chlorination pumps Project HOPE restored in southern Türkiye. The pumps have restored access to clean water to more than 42,000 people. All photos courtesy Project HOPE’s team in Türkiye, 2023.

One of the villages Project HOPE is providing water to is Durukaynak, in southeastern Türkiye. Durukaynak’s population has grown by four times since February 6 as the village has welcomed other earthquake victims who lost their homes.

There is still physical evidence of the earthquake around every corner — but villagers say that lack of access to water has been the most obvious and pressing issue since February. Water pipes were severely damaged, and community members are prohibited from drinking main and well water across the entire province in order to prevent the risk of epidemic and infectious disease.

“For the first time in my life, I had to buy a bottle of water,” says Sakine, a resident of Durukaynak. “No one in our village needed such a thing before the earthquake.”

In July, clean water finally returned to Durukaynak — thanks to the solar chlorination systems provided by Project HOPE.

two women watering a tree
Sakine, right, with her mother. The return of clean water is a huge relief to their community. “Clean water is a necessity not only for the villagers, but for all living things in the village,” her mother says.

This is a huge relief to Sakine, who is currently pregnant with her third child and understands the importance of water for her growing family’s health. Sakine’s mother is equally relieved and grateful on behalf of her fruit trees and animals as well.

“Clean water is a necessity not only for the villagers, but for all living things in the village,” she says.

The restoration of a safe water supply has been especially celebrated as the weather gets warmer and summer approaches its peak.

“If we hadn’t bought these solar devices, they would still need an additional budget to buy bottled water,” says Nezahat Yildirim, Senior Program and External Relations Manager for Project HOPE. “I can confidently say that providing these solar water chlorination systems is one of the best supports we can give to the health system and the rural population.”

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