Health care on wheels: mobile clinics for people affected by the earthquake in Türkiye
“When we look at the cases we are dealing with, there are mostly fractures, amputations, people with soft tissue injuries that happened during the earthquake. Of course, there are also some patients who have been suffering from chronic pain or other diseases even before the earthquake. Unfortunately, in Islahiye, public hospitals are destroyed. Our physiotherapy services are crucial here”, reports Esraa Alagöz, Project manager at the Independent Doctors Association (IDA), a Turkish-Syrian partner organization of Malteser International. Together with her team, Esraa drives out to meet patients in southern Türkiye on a daily basis.
Even months later, the devastating earthquake that hit southern Türkiye and northern Syria in February this year, has enormous impacts on the people living in affected areas. To this day, we are supporting our local partner organisations in the procurement of relief supplies as well as in the provision of healthcare services.
Gaps in medical care for small communities
In Türkiye, the health system was initially able to handle the majority of health cases related to the earthquake. For this purpose, the government opened four field hospitals in the affected provinces Hatay, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras and Mataya and deployed emergency medical teams to assist during the first three weeks of the crisis. However, there are still gaps in small communities close to the epicenter of the earthquake, where there is significant damage to primary healthcare facilities that need time to reactivate. To fill these gaps, mobile medical teams were deployed as a temporary solution to cover these communities.
Malteser International, together with its local partner organization IDA, operates two mobile clinics in Türkiye, providing free primary health care services in the towns of Islahiye and Nurdağı, in Gaziantep province, and a physiotherapy center in Kilis, located in Türkiye’s Southeast Anatolia region.
The project is funded by Malteser Austria and provides basic health care, psychosocial support and free medicines to a total of more than 12,600 people affected by the earthquake. The goal is to provide basic health services, including primary health care and medicines, to the most affected communities in areas of southern Türkiye that do not have access to public hospitals. The target communities with the greatest need were selected by the Health Directorate in Gaziantep.
Healing injuries and trauma
In the province of Kilis, the project covers the need for physiotherapeutic support. “Physiotherapy plays an important role in the recovery and improvement of quality of life for the people affected by the earthquake. It helps to treat injuries, restore mobility and promote independence. Through targeted exercises and therapies, it supports physical recovery and prevents complications, among other things," reports Lena Schellhammer, Project Manager for Türkiye at Malteser International.
In addition, the mobile clinics also offer psychosocial support to those affected. Many people in the region are still struggling with the trauma of the disaster.
The mobile clinics are staffed by a team of medical professionals and psychosocial support workers who are trained to offer psychological first aid and provide referrals for those in need. Visitors have a choice of group or individual sessions, as well as special services for children.
Since the severe earthquake at the Syrian-Turkish border, emergency aid at MI focuses particularly on the procurement of relief supplies in the affected areas. “International aid is still urgently needed. We will continue to provide rehabilitative measures such as physiotherapeutic and psychosocial support. Together with our local partners we ensure that people living in earthquake affected areas get the assistance they need”, says Schellhammer.