The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is increasing its humanitarian efforts in Türkiye and Syria as the region continues to recover from February’s devastating earthquakes.
“As we drove through the city of Antakya, I was amazed at the level of destruction. I’ve only seen something like that in pictures from cities bombed during World War 2. It was sobering,” said W. Christopher Waddell of the Presiding Bishopric, who recently returned from a two-day visit to Türkiye.
“For all intents and purposes, the city of 400,000 people no longer exists,” Bishop Waddell said. “Most of the houses and factories have collapsed. Those homes and buildings that are still standing will need to be demolished.”
Antakya is the capital of the Hatay Province in the southern part of the country near the Syrian border. The city has also lost its infrastructure, including water, power and sewer lines.
Following meetings with Church officials from Europe and Africa, Bishop Waddell traveled to the Middle East with his wife, Carol, and other representatives from the Church. They were in Türkiye on May 10 and 11, 2023 to review results of humanitarian assistance provided by the Church following the devastating earthquakes and to meet with Turkish officials regarding additional support.
While in the country, he met with Dr. Selami Kilic, Director General for EU and Foreign Affairs at the Turkish Ministry of Health, and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) of Turkey, headquartered in Ankara. Dr. Kilic expressed great appreciation for the Church assistance and commented that the Church has been one of the most efficient organizations in its response to the earthquakes, doing what they say they will do.
“Burhan Aslan and Nalan Aydin thanked the Church for the extraordinary donations and help provided through AFAD,” Bishop Waddell said. “The magnitude of the aid was also greatly appreciated.”
The Church of Jesus Christ was quick to respond and has been working with a number of relief organizations in the earthquake zone since the disaster occurred.
During his time in Turkey, Bishop Waddell also went to see some temporary housing, including a tent camp and a container camp, and a mobile medical clinic in Payas and mobile clinic factory.
During his visit, Bishop Waddell signed a letter of donation to provide 500 housing containers for displaced people. The containers are equipped with a toilet and shower and provide families with more privacy than tents. Those staying in tents must use community toilets and showers.
The Church is also providing mobile medical clinics to the region. Three clinics are operational, and a fourth will be delivered soon. Bishop Waddell also learned of a fifth location where a mobile medical clinic is needed, and that was approved upon his return home. It will be in a town called Oguzeli where the population has swelled to 70,000 from 10,000 as survivors are moving there to seek refuge.
In addition, the Church will help fund repairs for a hospital in Gaziantep that was damaged in the quakes.