Health Services in Afyonkarahisar during the National Struggle in the 100th Anniversary of the Great Offensive

Our Rector Prof. Dr. Nurullah Okumuş wrote an article for the special addition published by AfyonŞehir Newspaper on August 23, 2022, on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Great Offensive.

The National Struggle, which our heroic martyrs and veterans crowned with victory by shedding their blood, in order to ensure that we are living in the Republic of Turkey today as free individuals, is a five-year process started after the Armistice of Mudros (30 October 1918), and ended militarily with the Mudanya Armistice (11 October 1922), and politically with the Treaty of Lausanne (24 July 1923).

This period, also known as the “War of Independence” or “War of Liberation”, which is the work of our nation and has written its name in history with golden letters by displaying an honorable struggle against the invading states, has also set an example for the independence movements carried out later in different parts of the world.

On the other hand, it is very important for our history to understand the health services provided at that time on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Great Offensive, one of the greatest heroic epics in world history, hosted by our distinguished city Afyonkarahisar.

Well Organized Health Care Is the Most Important Path to Victory

The most basic value of individual and social life is to be healthy and stay healthy. A healthy society is the state’s greatest capital. For this reason, health services and the quality of these services are of great importance in all societies. Health services are the most basic service offered to citizens. Well-organized health services are the most important ways to victory, especially in war times. The health services provided, the measures taken, the arrangements made and the struggle given in order to heal the wounds of the tired people who were exposed to wars during the National Struggle, when the Turkish Nation struggled for existence against the invaders, are very valuable. In this period, while fighting against the enemy on many fronts, it was aimed to protect, develop and increase general health at the same time.

Considering the health services provided in the fronts where there is an urgent need for the greatest possible number of soldiers, our doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals and healthcare workers have made the best use of the available opportunities and have tried to provide the fastest treatment service with these opportunities, even at the expense of their lives. They were not only concerned with the treatment of the wounded, but also fought against epidemic diseases such as syphilis, malaria and tuberculosis. However, they were put in the line of fire in order to be able to make an emergency response when necessary.

 

Healthcare Providers Fought on the Front Line in the War of Independence

When we look at those periods, it is possible to say that despite insufficient resources and a small number of health personnel, a successful health service was provided with their effective use. First of all, shortly after the foundation of the Turkish Grand National Assembly, a ministry called “Sıhhiye ve Muavenet-i İçtimaiye Vekâleti” (Ministry of Health and Social Assistance) was established. This ministry has been made responsible for all civil health organizations throughout the country. In the first years of the war, a medical organization was established, health institutions were organized, medical units were formed within the army, hospitals were established and measures were taken to eliminate the lack of personnel.

Successful works such as the establishment of cleaning centers, production and application of vaccines have been carried out in order to fight against epidemic diseases. The Red Crescent Society (Turkish Red Crescent Society), which was established in the last period of the Ottoman Empire, continued to provide health services to both the civilian population and the army with limited means during the years of the First World War and the National Struggle. Working for the treatment and care of wounded soldiers on the fronts, the society was reorganized throughout the country during the National Struggle and continued its activities by getting stronger with the help of the Turkish Nation. The society provided clothing and medical supplies and rushed to the aid of the people.

In this all-out struggle, the medical students actively participated in the war of independence, while fighting against epidemics, and took their place at the forefront. Medical students provided health service support to the Kuvayi Milliye units, which were deprived of health personnel during the National Struggle, and contributed to the activities of producing vaccines. Great success has been achieved in the prevention of diseases with the plague, cholera, dysentery, smallpox and typhoid vaccines produced. In addition, with the training given to other physicians, vaccine production has been spread throughout the country.

The Key to Our War of Independence, Afyonkarahisar

Our beautiful city, Afyonkarahisar, is one of the key points of our War of Independence. It is a source of pride that 1,060 of the 36,239 soldiers who drank the sherbet of martyrdom for the independence of our nation in the War of Independence were registered with the military branches of Afyonkarahisar and its districts. The critical battles of the National Struggle took place in the geography of our city; thanks to the heroic resistance of the militia forces in and around Afyonkarahisar, it is extremely important that it prevents the railroad transportation partially by distracting the enemy and that it allows Ankara to move more easily by keeping the hope of our nation’s liberation alive.

Afyonkarahisar was one of the centers where the sick and wounded were treated during the National Struggle. The sick and injured were brought to Denizli and Afyonkarahisar by train and treated; for this purpose, hospitals were established in both cities. Afyonkarahisar Hospital with 200 beds was under the command of Istanbul Hospital. In the following process, a part of the hospital in Afyonkarahisar was moved to Alaşehir due to need and served here; drug demands were met from Afyonkarahisar Sanitary Warehouse.

Afyonkarahisar Sanitary Warehouse was established with medicine and sanitary materials sent to Afyonkarahisar from the Istanbul General Sanitary Warehouse as a precaution against the possibility of Istanbul falling during the Dardanelles Wars. During the First World War, during the withdrawal of the army from Syria, the Aleppo Sanitary Warehouse and 48 wagons that were salvaged from the Lightning Armies were brought to Afyonkarahisar and thus Afyonkarahisar Sanitary Warehouse came under the command of the Istanbul Sanitary Warehouse.

Before the Great Offensive, measures were taken to ensure that the soldiers reach the front in a healthy way. In this context, the troops reaching Afyonkarahisar, Sandıklı from Akşehir direction were accommodated in the hot springs with hot and healing waters; the deficiencies of the units, which were washed, cleaned and rested here, were completed. In Sandıklı, it has been determined that the weak soldiers and horses will participate in the Great Offensive and those who will not participate in the Great Offensive by making a choice between the weak and the strong ones. During the dispatch of the military units, the medics formed an arm with oxcarts, and peasant women were placed at the head of the oxcarts carrying the seriously wounded.

Health services played a great role in the success of the National Struggle. The evacuation procedures of the sick and injured, treatment services and protective measures against epidemics have been a positive factor in raising the morale of the army and the people. While the National Struggle was continuing, protecting the people and the army from epidemics was among the priorities. Under these difficult conditions, health workers struggled to protect public health in the best way possible with limited human and material resources, and to deliver health services to cities and all villages; just like today, they have performed their duties with great devotion and success at the expense of their lives in the past. On this occasion, I once again commemorate our martyrs, especially our health martyrs, with gratitude and mercy.

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Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 December 2022