November 29, 2011

In the aftermath strong earthquakes in eastern Turkey MSF is extending its activities in the region and will begin providing mental health services.

Van,Turkey/Barcelona, November 28, 2011-- In the aftermath of the strong earthquakes that struck eastern Turkey on October 23 and November 9, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is extending its activities in the region and will begin providing mental health services. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Turkey and the Van Crisis Coordination Centre, MSF teams will start addressing urgent needs for mental health support in Van.

“Many people are still in shock after the terrible experience of the quakes,” explains Patrick Wieland, MSF head of mission. “Many of them have lost family members and friends, and some have no one left. Their houses have collapsed, they have lost all their belongings and they have to deal with a harsh new reality and extremely cold weather conditions, which will take months to improve. Every day we see that there is a clear need to address the psychological consequences of this earthquake, which has taken a significant toll on the local population.”

A team of five psychologists and three psycho-educators will start working in the villages around Van, carrying out group and individual counselling sessions for both adults and children. MSF will also offer psychological care to refugees and asylum seekers that have been affected by the earthquake and are living in camps and settlements in Van. At Van district hospital, the team will establish a mental health emergency preparedness plan so that the hospital will be better equipped to deal with a future incident involving mass casualties.

An MSF emergency team arrived at the earthquake-affected areas of Van and Ercis on October 25. Since then, in collaboration with two Turkish organizations, Hayata Destek, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (hCa), and other local partners and authorities, MSF has distributed 2,000 tents suitable for winter conditions and 2,000 cooking kits to 12,000 people in 37 villages in Van region.

MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in more than 60 countries. In Turkey, MSF also supports a mental healthcare project for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Istanbul in collaboration with Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (hCa).