1.5 million people left homeless in Turkey after devastating earthquakes: UNDP

(Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

At least 1.5 million people have been left homeless and 500,000 new homes need to be built after devastating earthquakes and dozens of aftershocks in southern Turkey, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts.

“This makes this clearly the largest earthquake disaster in Türkiye’s history and perhaps the largest natural disaster the country has ever faced,” UNDP Turkey Resident Representative Louisa Vinton said.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

The February 6 earthquakes and following aftershocks have killed more than 42,000 and injured more than 100,000 people in Turkey. Thousands of people are without safe drinking water and sanitation facilities such as running water and toilets in Turkish provinces hit by the quakes.

Vinton also pointed out that with people in need of urgent housing and an estimated 116 million to 210 million tons of debris to be cleared from the region, a daunting reconstruction challenge in the region lies ahead.

“To give you a frame of reference, the last major earthquake in Turkey in 1999, which also had a high number of casualties, although less than less than half of what we’re seeing now, that resulted in 13 million tonnes of rubble,” Vinton said. “Much of it can be recycled for construction and it can also be used as a way of generating income short term.”

The UN launched a $1 billion funding appeal on Thursday to support millions of people in Turkey and offered further support for future projects to help rebuild the region.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said in a statement that the funds would provide humanitarian relief for three months to 5.2 million people. The money would “allow aid organizations to rapidly scale up vital support,” including in the areas of food security, protection, education, water and shelter, he added.

UNDP  is the UN agency that works in some 170 countries to help eradicate poverty, promote social and economic development, and help countries cope with crises. The organization was established in 1965 by the General Assembly of the UN.

Turkey is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

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