Syrian Refugees in Turkey Growing More Desperate
With weather in Turkey turning cold and world attention turning away from war in Syria, refugees who fled atrocities are in desperate need of food and heaters, indigenous missionaries said.
Some refugees in unofficial camps in Turkey are considering selling their organs to feed their children, one ministry director said.
"The situation is so bad that some parents we talk with even think about selling organs just to meet needs for their family and children," he said. "Around 140 babies need baby formula and diapers immediately; also, refugees need food boxes immediately."
In an unofficial camp ministry workers recently visited, they found 40 newborns and 140 other babies in immediate need of baby formula and diapers. Families in 400 tents needed firewood, heaters were needed in another 170 tents, and the ministry also seeks 300 blankets for refugees as winter temperatures set in.
"We need immediately at least 170 heaters to keep newborn babies and children warming up from the cold," he said.
"Babies die in front of their parents' eyes," the director said. "Nothing nutritious comes from their hands, and they do not know where to go."
Of the 4.8 million refugees from Syria, Turkey has received more than any other country, more than 2.7 million, according to United Nations figures. People are weak, unhappy, and indifferent, the indigenous ministry leader said.
"Babies die in front of their parents' eyes," he said. "Nothing nutritious comes from their hands, and they do not know where to go. They do not know how to get through the winter, they have no warming materials."
As soon the ministry team reaches the tents, crowds of refugees come and beg for help, he said, including mothers bringing babies wrapped in old, unwashed blankets.
"This situation mostly affects newborns and children," he said. "This trauma will not come out of their memory for a long time. Almost every tent has a baby born disabled, and because they do not get adequate health care, the condition is permanent."
Refugees have thronged to makeshift camps in southern Turkey because they have learned that security forces in the official camps abuse them, he said.
"The camp is hosting more and more people escaping from war every day - with each passing day, nobody wants to live in official camps because they are subject to ill-treatment by the security forces there in the official camps," the director said. "People have been become sick, but the camp has never been helped, even though they have been telling municipal officials many times."
The director of another ministry based in Turkey, echoing refugees' needs for food and warmth, told how one young girl in an unofficial camp reflected her reality in pictures she drew. The ministry had provided children with crayons, paper and gospel storybooks to help them process their trauma in light of Jesus' suffering and resurrection, the director said.
The girl had drawn one picture of soldiers shooting people, Jesus on the cross and refugees in tents crying before empty bowls. The director asked her why people were dying of starvation in the picture.
"The girl answered me, 'When Jesus died, there was no one to feed the people,'" he said. "So I said, 'Jesus did die on the cross, and He has sent us to come feed you because we are His disciples.' She smiled and then ran back to her tent as I shouted, 'Go and explain this to everyone.' As I watched her joyfully run to her tent, I hoped she had heard me."
The girl had drawn another picture Jesus feeding the 5,000 - with the indigenous ministry's supply truck nearby providing food to refugees.
"I'm not sure whether she tied that together, the trucks that had just arrived to give them all food, and our eagerness to do as Jesus did," he said.
The ministry recently visited 2,350 of the 10,000 tents in the area, as well as 220 homes - about 11,000 refugees within two months, he said. With assistance from Christian Aid Mission, workers were able to provide flour, oil, tomato sauce, milk and other basic food items, along with clean water.
The children are beginning to learn Turkish, he said. They want to learn to read, and some would like to become teachers or doctors, he added. The ministry provided them with locally purchased notebooks, pencils and a New Testament picture book in Arabic.
"Most of the families are working in fields, so they can't send their children to school," the director said. "The older children have to look after the younger ones, and if a rich Turkish man comes looking for a wife, young girls are given to him."
The refugees are deeply grateful for the aid that arrives, both ministry directors said, with the first one adding that the situation presents both a big opportunity and responsibility.
"They have more needs than ever," he said. "These people are really in misery and losing their beliefs, and in this case we have really big duties. We can win people who are in this sociological and spiritual depression, as long as God is with us. And we can never accomplish this task without you."
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