UNHCR launches emergency airlift to eastern Turkey

Briefing Notes, 28 October 2011

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 28 October 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In response to the Turkish Red Crescent's appeal for help on Tuesday, the first of four UNHCR humanitarian flights for the victims of the devastating earthquake in eastern Turkey is scheduled to land in Erzurum this evening (Friday, 28 October). The Ilyushin-76 cargo plane will bring 37 metric tons of UNHCR relief items from our emergency stockpile in Dubai. The next three flights are scheduled to touch down in Erzurum on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Each flight will be carrying approximately 500 tents and 10,000 blankets. Together with resources we already have in Turkey, our immediate emergency relief response for the victims of earthquake amounts to 4,000 tents, 50,000 blankets and 10,000 sleeping mats. The supplies arriving by plane will be loaded onto trucks and taken immediately to Van and surrounding areas for distribution. Our response is part of a concerted effort by the UN country team.

The full impact of the earthquake is still being assessed. The city of Van alone has a population of more than 400,000 people and many of them lost homes. Hundreds of buildings collapsed and thousands of others have been rendered uninhabitable. The shelter needs are great. In addition to more than 25,000 tents already distributed by the authorities, the Turkish government has appealed for 40,000 winterized tents and 40,000 transitional shelters.

UNHCR has been present in Van since 1995. At the time the earthquake struck on Sunday our field teams were assisting more than 2,000 refugees and asylum seekers living in the area. At present we have no reports about casualties among these two groups but many have lost accommodation and belongings. Our staff, who volunteered to stay in Van, are working closely with the Turkish authorities who are leading the search and rescue as well as the overall relief effort.

To support the relief efforts of the authorities our operation in Turkey is deploying additional protection teams to Van tomorrow to counsel refugees and asylum seekers on how to access relief assistance and to identify any special needs they may have including the possibility of relocation for the most vulnerable or for those with particular medical needs.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Turkey, Metin Corabatir on mobile +90 533 572 8716

  • In Geneva, Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617

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Emergency Response

UNHCR is committed to increasing its ability to respond to complex emergency situations.

Pakistan Earthquake: The Initial Response

The UN refugee agency is providing hundreds of tonnes of urgently needed relief supplies for victims in northern Pakistan. UNHCR is sending family tents, hospital tents, plastic sheeting, mattresses, kitchen sets, blankets and other items from its global stockpiles. Within a few days of the earthquake, just as its substantial local stocks were all but exhausted, UNHCR began a series of major airlifts from its warehouses around the world, including those in Denmark, Dubai, Jordan and Turkey.

UNHCR does not normally respond to natural disasters, but it quickly joined the UN humanitarian effort because of the sheer scale of the destruction, because the quake affected thousands of Afghan refugees, and because the agency has been operational in Pakistan for more than two decades. North West Frontier Province (NWFP), one of the regions most severely affected by the quake, hosts 887,000 Afghan refugees in camps.

While refugees remain the main focus of UNHCR's concern, the agency is integrated into the coordinated UN emergency response to help quake victims.

Pakistan Earthquake: The Initial Response

Pakistan Earthquake: Braving the Winter Cold

December 2005 – January 2006

Winter in northern Pakistan has not been as harsh as many feared, but earthquake survivors are still experiencing dangerously low temperatures, along with snow, heavy rain and landslides.

To help people survive the tough conditions, UNHCR has distributed blankets, plastic sheeting, tents and stoves. Vulnerable children in Danna village, north of Muzaffarabad city, have received warm clothing. In camps in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), communal, heated tents have been set up, while in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where there is not enough space for communal tents, stoves are being distributed to individual families. UNHCR staff are training camp residents on the safe use of stoves and reducing fire hazards. Finally, UNHCR partners are registering people displaced by earthquake, gathering information vital for both the provision of aid to survivors now and the reconstruction that will come later.

UNHCR is responsible for supporting the Pakistan authorities in some 160 relief camps housing nearly 140,000 people left homeless by the October 8th quake.

Pakistan Earthquake: Braving the Winter Cold

Pakistan Earthquake

The UN refugee agency is providing hundreds of tonnes of urgently needed relief supplies for victims in northern Pakistan. UNHCR is sending family tents, hospital tents, plastic sheeting, mattresses, kitchen sets, blankets and other items from its global stockpiles. Within a few days of the earthquake, just as its substantial local stocks were all but exhausted, UNHCR began a series of major airlifts from its warehouses around the world, including those in Denmark, Dubai, Jordan and Turkey.

UNHCR does not normally respond to natural disasters, but it quickly joined the UN humanitarian effort because of the sheer scale of the destruction, because the quake affected thousands of Afghan refugees, and because the agency has been operational in Pakistan for more than two decades. North West Frontier Province (NWFP), one of the regions most severely affected by the quake, hosts 887,000 Afghan refugees in camps.

While refugees remain the main focus of UNHCR's concern, the agency is integrated into the coordinated UN emergency response to help quake victims.

Pakistan Earthquake

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