26 Dec 2014
Christmas came early for the Maya children. With help from the nongovernmental organization Kimse Yok Mu, which means: “Is anybody there”, the family of seven will have heat and warm food this winter. “May God bless you and them. They are nice and generous people. They offered to help and gave us gas, a fridge and a washing machine,” Nishat Maya said. But getting aid to families such as the Mayas is far from universal. “With the arrival of the winter, sheltering [and] heating are the more difficult because even the people who have found housing are not living in good conditions. They just have a roof over their heads,” Kimse Yok Mu’s domestic aid coordinator Huseyin Fazlioglu said. In the southern Turkish cities along the border with Syria, thousands of refugees are living in deplorable conditions. In Istanbul, a group of civilian volunteers head out every night to feed and hand out donations to the homeless in many of the city’s parks, and the number of Syrians they encounter has been increasing steadily, Ayse Tukrukcu, a volunteer with this group, said. “They sleep on the grass behind me on blankets, the stuff we gave them, on the ground. It is cool right now and at 3 am it gets cooler,” Tukrukcu said. Many refugees struggle to adapt to an austere life in Turkey. Those on the streets find themselves awaiting a space in one of Turkey’s many refugee camps. Others try to carve out a better life for themselves, begging or working illegally for little to no money. Their situation is made even more acute as temperatures drop. The conditions in the camps are much better. Refugees have access to shelter, health care, education, food and winter weather clothing donated by a multitude of NGOs. But the 250,000 people in the camps are only a small fraction of the 1.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. And for the 6.5 million people internally displaced inside Syria, their desperate needs are far greater than what is provided by the select few nonprofit organizations that are able to operate in the country.