One month after the devastating earthquakes that hit 11 provinces in Türkiye, killing more than 46,000 people, displacing 2.7 million (almost 20 percent of the region’s total population) and destroying more than 214,000 buildings, the needs remain vast yet the resources still scarce, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has warned. Of the US$1 billion requested under the UN “flash appeal” issued for Türkiye, only 10.4 percent has been funded as of today, with zero contributions so far towards “early recovery” efforts.
The emergency response led by the Government is currently providing shelter to 1.9 million people displaced by the earthquakes, with container cities rapidly taking shape to replace the many makeshift tent camps erected in the immediate wake of the disaster. Ambitious high-speed housing reconstruction plans have also been announced.
But the needs remain acute. “Now is the time for international solidarity,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton after visiting Adiyaman, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kahramanmaras, Kilis and Samandag and speaking with local authorities on 4-6 March 2023. “This is a disaster unprecedented in its scope and scale, and the generosity of international donors needs to be proportionately large to ensure an adequate response.”
Assessments of damages and recovery costs are still under way, but the financial toll of the earthquakes is certain to be high. A rapid satellite-based assessment published by the World Bank on 27 February 2023 estimated physical damages at US$34.2 billion, with recovery likely to double or triple this sum. A longer-term needs assessment being led by the Government with support from UNDP, the World Bank and the European Union (EU) already counts the damages at over US$100 billion. Once completed, this assessment will structure the appeal for recovery and reconstruction funding at the EU donor conference in Brussels in March 2023.
“Even while awaiting vital funding, there is no time to lose in initiating recovery efforts,” said UNDP’s Vinton. “Now that we are one month into the disaster response, we need already to be taking steps to start rebuilding communities and restoring normal life.”
To this end, UNDP has committed US$1.8 million towards five different initiatives designed to start small but scale up rapidly. Of this total, US$500,000 comes from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), with UNDP internal resources and redirected project funds covering the other $US1.3 million.
First, UNDP will support three emerging “container cities” by supplying sanitation and waste management facilities for residents. This effort is inspired by the work of Mert Firat, a popular actor who serves as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in Türkiye. Firat is working through his Needs Map (İhtiyaç Haritası) organization to create a temporary container community for displaced families in Hatay, in coordination with the Government. Similar support will be provided to temporary settlements in Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras.
UNDP has already delivered US$110,000 in waste management and sanitation equipment to Hatay, working in partnership with the Nature Conservation Center (DKM). Sanitation and hygiene are just one of the many areas where special attention needs to be paid to the needs of women and girls. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that 25,000 of 226,000 women who are now pregnant in the earthquake zone will deliver this month.
Second, UNDP will establish “mobile day care centers” in Hatay, Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras, working with the Ministry of Family and Social Services to provide social care, referral services and essential equipment such as wheelchairs and adult diapers to the elderly and persons with disabilities (PwDs) in disaster-affected areas.
“Local authorities in the affected regions uniformly highlighted this as a priority need,” said Vinton. “The disaster has left many older people isolated and traumatized. These mobile facilities will help us reach out to them where they are, whether to help fill in application forms, replace a lost cane or just lend a sympathetic ear.”
Third, in Hatay, where the destruction is truly apocalyptic, UNDP will work with KEDV, an association of local women’s cooperatives, to set up a mobile kitchen to deliver hot meals to vulnerable persons while purchasing food supplies from hard-hit local producers. UNDP thus aims to spend relief funding in a way that provides a lifeline for local business.
Fourth, in an effort to help the thousands of displaced persons who have taken refuge outside the affected region, UNDP will work with the Ministry of Industry and Technology to provide advisory support to small businesses and targeted vocational training to help those who have lost livelihoods get back on their feet again.
Fifth, UNDP will provide equipment and expertise to help safeguard irreplaceable cultural heritage monuments that were damaged in the earthquakes. “This region is a cradle of ancient civilizations, and a cultural crossroads where diversity has become a hallmark of local identity,” said Vinton. “Restoring this unique legacy will be central to rebuilding a community spirit.”
“These are modest efforts compared to the need,” explained Vinton. “But by showcasing what can be done already to start putting back together the pieces of a normal life, we hope to encourage an outpouring of financial support from our international donors.”
For more information on UNDP’s earthquake response priorities, see: https://www.undp.org/turkiye/publications/proposed-areas-undp-assistance-recovery-and-reconstruction-after-2023-earthquakes-turkiye