By Denis McClean
GENEVA, January 8, 2015 - Turkey was yesterday praised as an emerging leader in disaster risk reduction as it marked the 5th anniversary of the creation of AFAD, the national disaster and emergency management authority under the direct control of the Prime Minister’s office.
The Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Ms. Margareta Wahlström, said: “The creation of AFAD five years ago was a bold, visionary move. It recognized the simple truth that the policies required for effective prevention need strong institutions to ensure their implementation.
“Turkey is a country with a very challenging risk profile and a long history of disaster management. AFAD represents a major strategic shift from crisis management to risk management with a strong focus on institutional capacity.”
In a message to AFAD, she welcomed Turkey’s leadership in the launch of the Worldwide Initiative for Safe Schools which will be a major item on the agenda at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March.
In this video interview, AFAD Director, Dr. Fuat Oktay, says that the Marmara earthquake in 1999 which killed 18,000 people was a turning point for disaster management in Turkey. A subsequent study found that six million out of 22 million buildings across the country are to be either retrofitted or demolished and rebuilt again.
The aim is to reach all vulnerable schools and hospitals by 2017.
Dr. Oktay says: “While investing heavily in technology and construction, Turkey has adopted a people-centred approach to disaster risk reduction and embraced the priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action.
“Over 800,000 people have received training in disaster risk reduction. Many parents have also been trained in light search and rescue techniques. The Safe Schools programme is part of the commitment that Turkey will make at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction.”