Resilience and partnerships remain key to Türkiye’s earthquake recovery
06 February 2024
by Babatunde Ahonsi, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Türkiye
February 6th is the anniversary of the earthquakes in southern Türkiye that caused over 50.000 deaths in 11 provinces.
When the twin earthquakes struck 11 provinces in southern Türkiye, shock waves rattled the whole world.
In Sierra Leone, where I was stationed then, the massive damage the earthquakes caused resonated in our hearts.
Still having those memories in my mind, my first mission in Türkiye was to the earthquake region. And recently, I visited Hatay, one of the provinces where the earthquakes took the highest toll. A year has passed, but the agony the earthquakes caused can still be felt. The reason for that was obvious. Hatay is one of the provinces that lost the highest number of lives. We also lost five of our UN family members in Hatay.
The Turkish Government’s recovery efforts and assistance to the victims are remarkable and exemplary.
And the resilience I have seen in the eyes of the people in the region makes those efforts even more effective.
The UN and its agencies have been on the ground since day one to support the earthquake response by the Turkish Government. Today, we continue our strong commitment to assist recovery efforts. Our work in the region has been wide-ranging and significant progress has been made.
UN Türkiye and UN agencies in Türkiye are now collaborating with the Turkish government in its recovery efforts to build back better, putting the furthest behind first especially disadvantaged women, young people, persons living with disabilities, and refugees.
UN agencies have reached people across the earthquake zone in support of recovery efforts and ongoing humanitarian needs. Those efforts included food assistance, hygiene kits, container houses, school supplies, empowerment of women, psycho-social support, reproductive health supplies, Cash-for-Work program with ISKUR, providing cash and in-kind grants to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, and assisting with supply of animal feed, fertilizer, agricultural equipment, seeds, and seedlings.
UN Türkiye agencies are also involved with registration and data updates for those in need of international protection, cash support to the most vulnerable households, ensuring the continuity of health services for displaced populations.
To provide immediate protection, containers to safeguard collections in major museums were delivered and cameras and drones to aid in documenting damaged cultural heritage assets were supplied. To help restore the region's cultural heritage and revitalize heritage-based livelihoods, the "Save the Legacy" crowdfunding campaign was launched. An Earthquake Response and Recovery Plan (ERRP) to provide support to rural residents in 11 provinces was developed. Support provided helps nearly one million children access formal or informal education, including early learning in the earthquake region.
In Brussels, on 20 March 2023, international donors pledged US$6.5 billion in support of the earthquake response in Türkiye.
The conference featured a presentation of the findings of the Türkiye Earthquakes Recovery and Reconstruction Assessment (TERRA), including an analysis of the disaster’s financial impact conducted by the Turkish Government with support from the UN, the EU and the World Bank. This analysis estimated the total damage and losses caused by the earthquakes at US$103.6 billion.
In July 2023, the UN Country Team in Türkiye, in consultation with its partners, prepared a Recovery Framework. It aims to ensure international actors and national partners continue to provide essential assistance to people most affected by the earthquakes. One of the main targets of the framework is to accelerate recovery programs in the spirit of building back better and leaving no one behind.
In line with that framework, the Area-Based Coordination Team in Gaziantep works as an advisory body to the UN Country Team in Ankara to help coordinate UN and partner activities that support the Government’s response to the February 2023 earthquakes.
Now is the time
Türkiye has always stood by nations when they were in need. Now is the time for the world to continue to support the people of Türkiye – just as they have stood in solidarity with others seeking assistance.
We need the international community to fully provide the funds pledged to support the earthquake response. This is essential to build back better and to leave no one behind.