UNDP launches new recovery efforts as Türkiye marks first anniversary of devastating earthquakes

February 6, 2024

Initiatives across four provinces showcase sustained commitment to rebuilding lives 

Ankara, 6 February 2024 – At the one-year mark since the devastating earthquakes that killed 53,537 and left 3.3 million homeless in Türkiye, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a range of new initiatives aimed at expanding support to the socio-economic recovery of the affected areas. These include the establishment of a women’s entrepreneurship center in Kahramanmaras; creation of a regional center for prostheses and other assistive devices for persons with disabilities in Malatya; and the opening of two "accessible community centers” for the elderly and disabled in Adiyaman and Hatay. 

“We stand in solidarity with the affected communities and reaffirm our commitment to support recovery efforts,” said UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton, who met with earthquake survivors during a week-long visit to the four most-affected provinces organized to mark the first anniversary of the disaster. 

The new UNDP initiatives are part of a US$50 million program focused on four priority areas: restoring care services for vulnerable groups; reviving livelihoods and business activity; improving municipal management of waste and earthquake debris; and protecting and restoring endangered cultural heritage. 

“We need to be humble in the face of such a horrific disaster,” said Vinton. “UNDP has contributed many tangible improvements, but we recognize that full recovery of the region requires a commitment of years.” 


Reviving livelihoods

The centerpiece of UNDP socio-economic efforts has been a Swedish-funded US$10-million program of “earthquake recovery grants” awarded to 4,616 small businesses across the 11 most-affected provinces. The grants were designed for speed and simplicity, with cash distributed within weeks of the call for applications. While modest in the face of immense need – the program attracted 23,648 applications – the program helped to generate a “trickle up” effect designed to catalyze a wider economic revival. 

In an effort to address acute labor shortages in industry that emerged as thousands of skilled workers sought safer locations outside the region, UNDP has so far provided vocational training to more than 1,200 earthquake survivors, offering more than 40 short courses in high-demand sectors, such as foreign trade, culinary arts, software-driven carpet design, welding, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) operation and call-center staffing. To date 319 course graduates (225 of them women) have secured employment. 

Responding to the widespread destruction of workspace for small businesses, UNDP also refurbished and equipped seven common use areas in Malatya, Diyarbakır, Şanlıurfa and Kilis). In addition to providing a place for companies to restore production, these common spaces offer childcare and business services. 

Building on its achievements to date, UNDP on 5 February 2024 announced plans to establish a center for women’s entrepreneurship in partnership with the Kahramanmaras Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The aim is to expand women’s financial security and contribution to the earthquake recovery by providing training, coaching and mentoring, support services and a shared workspace for women-headed businesses.


Restoring care services 

The earthquakes both disrupted the provision of care services for the elderly, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups and left many thousands of people with new disabilities. Millions suffer from lasting trauma. To address these needs, with UK funding, UNDP partnered with municipalities to construct and equip “accessible community centers” in Adiyaman, Hatay and Kahramanmaras. Customized buses were also supplied for delivering mobile care services. The center in Kahramanmaras opened on 13 December 2023, while the one in Adiyaman opens on 7 February 2024 and in Hatay on 8 February 2024. 

UNDP also worked with the Ministry of Family and Social Services to construct, equip and staff centers providing rehabilitation for the elderly and disabled in container cities in Adiyaman and Kahramanmaras. 

Supporting persons with disabilities remains a core concern for UNDP. With funding from Korea, UNDP on 5 February 2024 launched work in Malatya to establish a center for the production of orthopedic and prosthetic devices and expand the existing regional center for the repair of wheelchairs and other assistive devices. In addition, trainings will be offered to help amputees and other disabled people find employment. 

Meanwhile, with funding from Croatia, UNDP is currently rebuilding an elementary school in Hatay with a focus on creating a model for inclusive education, with additional schools to be refurbished in Adiyaman, Kahramanmaras and Malatya to ensure that children with disabilities can attend alongside their peers.


Improving waste and debris management 

The collapse of buildings caused by the earthquakes created a huge volume of debris, estimated to amount to 100 million cubic meters. While many city centers have been cleared of rubble from the disaster, mountains of debris await proper processing in 86 storage sites outside towns. With funding from Japan and Kuwait, UNDP is currently procuring the equipment for model rubble recycling facilities to be built in Hatay, Kahramanmaras and Malatya. Ensuring safe treatment of hazardous waste is a top priority. 

In addition, UNDP supplied more than US$3 million in waste management equipment and other urgent supplies to the most affected municipalities. This included four streetsweepers, two garbage trucks, 680 galvanized waste containers, spare parts for damaged vehicles and 250 mobile toilets and showers. This work continues, with the delivery to Malatya on 5 February 2024 of a fire truck for temporary settlements. 


Protecting endangered cultural heritage

The disaster-hit area is home to a uniquely rich historical legacy dating back thousands of years, and the cultural mosaic that has resulted is a cherished symbol of diversity. To help protect endangered cultural heritage in the region, UNDP delivered containers to archeology museums to house precious artifacts. Cameras and drones were also supplied to aid in the documentation of damaged cultural heritage assets.

With disaster-related cultural heritage restoration costs estimated at over US$2 billion, UNDP launched a global crowdfunding campaign with the slogan “Save the Legacy” on 8 December 2023. The aim is to inspire contributions from abroad to the restoration campaign, with US$4 million secured to date. UNDP is focused on intangible as well as tangible heritage, given the livelihoods that draw upon local traditions.

“At UNDP we know that any return to normal for earthquake survivors must include not only a safe and secure place to live but also a livelihood that generates income and a sense of independence,” said Vinton. “We call on the continued generosity of our partners to ensure that work with this goal can continue.”

For more information

Esra Özçeşmeci, Communications Associate for UNDP in Türkiye, esra.ozcesmeci@undp.org