Experts point to growing risk of epidemics in earthquake zones

Experts have pointed to the growing risk of epidemics in earthquake zones in Turkey’s southeastern region where approximately 13 million people are residing. The lack of regular access to nourishment, hygienic products, toilets, garbage collecting, and healthcare facilities pose a risk of contagious diseases' outbreaks in the ten provinces affected by the quakes.

Duvar English

The Istanbul Medical Chamber (İTO) has called on the Health Ministry to establish primary healthcare units for essential services to be provided in the earthquake zones to avert the risk of contagious diseases that can spread among survivors. 

In an information note on Feb. 11, the İTO said that urgent action was needed due to the risk of contagious diseases such as influenza, measles, or scabies that can spread in crowded tents. 

Public Health Professionals Association (HASUDER) also issued a press release drawing attention to the epidemic risk arising from the deterioration of the infrastructure, the lack of safe drinking and utility water, the inability to remove the garbages, the disruption in immunization services, and the cold weather, reported by news outlet Cumhuriyet.

The HASUDER also stated that special attention should be paid to people having chronic diseases, children, women, and those suffering from psycho-social problems. 

The southeastern Şanlıurfa Medical Chamber Chair Dr. Bulut Ezer stated that the housing problem increased the cases of cold weather-related diseases and carbon monoxide poisoning among people.

Dr. Ezer stated that tent camps do not have a proper organization for toilets, sewage disposal, and garbage collecting, as well as access to nourishment. He added that the fact that people burn whatever they find inside the tents to keep themselves warm also causes carbon monoxide poisoning. As survivors in the disaster area have been struggling with snowy and sub-zero weather conditions, they are turning to such a method. 

The humanitarian aid crisis started to show itself in also Hatay, another province heavily affected by the earthquake. There is a lack of planning for aid activities in the province, according to reports. The surroundings of tent camps have turned into a garbage dump due to the lack of cleaning, according to the online news outlet Deutsche Welle.

Additionally, since most of the dead bodies under the rubble have not been yet removed, a heavy odor began to spread in some areas. Even if some of the bodies have been pulled out from the rubble, they are kept wrapped in blankets in front of the demolished buildings for a long time as funeral services are inadequate.

Minister of Health Fahrettin Koca announced on Feb. 11 that the government trying to focus on primary care. He added that "We are building an in-place, pervasive network to solve the distribution of vaccines and medication problem for primary care."

As of Feb. 12 morning, the death toll from devastating earthquakes rose to 24,617, with the number of injured standing as 80,278. 

The number of demolished buildings has been yet recorded as 6,444.