The road ahead is a journey where I hope my country will continue to benefit from the solidarity that has been expressed in the aftermath of the earthquakes, Fahrettin Altun writes.
On 6 February, the Republic of Türkiye faced a natural disaster that resulted in unprecedented devastation.
Massive twin earthquakes rocked the southern region of my country, impacting an area bigger than the size of Austria and affecting more than 13 million people.
Under the leadership of our President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish government mobilised every available resource at its disposal to the disaster zone.
After a quick damage assessment, it became very clear that the scale of destruction was something that we had never seen before.
Airports, highways, and infrastructure were severely damaged, and more than 10,000 buildings collapsed in the aftermath of these powerful earthquakes.
Despite the many obstacles and logistical challenges our government faced, we were able to deploy search and rescue teams, military personnel, security services and healthcare professionals to the earthquake-stricken areas in a rapid manner.
The highest levels of our government, from the president and vice president to ministers and officials, quickly arrived at ground zero to oversee the state’s response.
With the vast expanse affected and many of our local emergency service people becoming earthquake victims themselves, our government quickly reached the decision that international assistance would be needed.
For the first time in Türkiye’s history, a level 4 alarm was sounded.
Türkiye knows what solidarity means
Two years before the earthquake, our country, along with the rest of the world, endured an international health crisis.
The discovery of the COVID-19 virus and its rapid spread to pandemic levels created a global concern that required a global response.
During this period, humanity rediscovered the importance of solidarity. Rather than an “everyone for themselves” mentality, the shared global vision was a “none of us are healthy, until all of us are healthy” approach.
Throughout the pandemic, Türkiye’s strong local manufacturing sector uniquely positioned my country to be able to provide medical and humanitarian aid to other nations in need.
We were able to help more than 150 countries with much-needed medical supplies during a very critical time.
It was not only a great honour to be able to provide support to the international community, but we also felt it was our responsibility.
As the two-year pandemic period came to an end, global solidarity was the decisive factor that defeated our common challenge.
This time, others worldwide got together to help us
In the early morning hours, after news of the devastating earthquakes spread across the world, Türkiye witnessed an unprecedented level of global support and solidarity.
Offers of assistance and condolence messages came from many international institutions and countries.
The huge outpouring of support was an important boost of morale for the Turkish people.
In the two-week period after the earthquakes hit, more than 80 countries sent approximately 10,000 search-and-rescue personnel to the disaster zone.
This international coalition of rescue workers joined the more than 200,000 local emergency personnel on the ground to undertake the biggest rescue mission of all time.
For the next 14 days, these brave rescue workers would go through the unstable rubble of concrete and steel, both risking their own lives while trying to save survivors.
We witnessed firsthand, along with millions across the world on their television screens, as miracle after miracle happened and heroes were born.
Global solidarity had a direct and visible impact in saving thousands of lives.
Focus is now on helping survivors recover and rebuild
Now with the search and rescue phase of the Turkish Government completed, we have shifted our full focus to relief, recovery, and rebuilding.
With over a million of our citizens displaced, more than half a million buildings that need to be rebuilt and an estimated 100 billion dollars in damages, we have a monumental task ahead of us.
Our number one priority has been to address the immediate needs of earthquake survivors, which include shelter, healthcare, food, money, and clothing.
The Turkish government, with assistance from NGOs and the international community, has acted swiftly and decisively to meet these needs.
As part of the relief response, the state has provided more than 350,000 tents and 11,000 containers as temporary shelter for over 1.5 million earthquake survivors.
Some 80 field hospitals have been constructed throughout the disaster zone, and mental health professionals are made available to help victims cope with the disaster.
Daily hot meals are served, and financial assistance has been provided to support families.
Throughout this whole process, high-level government officials are constantly visiting the affected areas to ensure that earthquake survivors are getting the necessary support.
Homes to be rebuilt in one year
We continue to heal our wounds together as a country as we start the long and arduous journey to full recovery.
While the immediate needs of our people are being met, the major challenge ahead of Türkiye will be the rebuilding process.
President Erdoğan has eased the concerns of earthquake survivors by pledging that their homes will be rebuilt in one year.
If the Turkish government’s track record of keeping its promises of rebuilding homes after disasters in İzmir and Elazığ is an indicator, there should be full confidence that the president will once again deliver on his word.
With a cost numbering in the tens of billions of dollars, the scale of the rebuilding initiative will be unprecedented. But our government is prepared for this challenge and aims to build back better, stronger and safer.
One month later, we remain grateful to our many allies
We have now marked the first month since Türkiye experienced the "Disaster of the Century".
In this past month, I have witnessed more death and destruction than any man or country should be exposed to.
I have also witnessed the resilience and unity of the Turkish people, the importance of global solidarity and the generosity of humanity.
I know from experience that Türkiye has many allies across the world, and during my country’s most difficult times, our friends stood by our side.
Türkiye expresses its gratitude to all the countries, international institutions and people of the world for their support.
While Türkiye has been able to overcome many of the immediate challenges of the disaster, the road ahead is a journey where I hope my country will continue to benefit from the solidarity that has been expressed in the aftermath of the earthquakes.
Continuing to raise awareness after the media’s attention has shifted is a priority for me as a communications professional.
In the coming days, the United Nations, European Union, and Organisation of Turkic States will be organising extraordinary meetings and donor conferences.
The assistance that will be generated from these meetings will support our efforts to provide relief for the Turkish people.
Professor Fahrettin Altun is the Director of Turkish Presidential Communications and an academic.
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