Thursday, 2 December 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
34. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the assistance provided for relief efforts in Turkey following the recent earthquake; if he will increase the aid in view of the fact that this was the second earthquake in 1999 and severe hardship was endured by so many people; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25499/99]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Andrews): The devastating earthquakes that struck the Marmara region of Turkey in August and again in November of this year, have resulted in great human suffering. Thousands were killed with many more left injured. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless.
The first earthquake to hit the region on 17 August measured 7.4 on the Richter scale and resulted in the devastation of lives and homes. The Turkish authorities immediately requested international assistance. The response to the request was timely and substantial with help coming from EU member states and many other countries such as the USA, Japan and Israel. The official death toll from that earthquake now stands at over 17,000 and the number of reported injured stands at almost 44,000. Three hundred thousand homes were destroyed and there are currently 130,000 people are living in tent cities with a further 80,000 living in ad hoc settlements.
Aftershocks have continued in the region since 17 August. On 12 November a second major earthquake struck Duzce, a populated area just 100 kilometres from Izmit, the centre of the August earthquake. Building on their earlier experience, the Government response was quick and effective. Once again international search and rescue teams arrived at the site within hours. Latest Turkish Government figures put the death toll from this most recent quake at over 500, with over 3,000 injured.
The Irish Government has been to the forefront in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of these disasters. We co-ordinated our response with the aid flowing in from other countries and concentrated on meeting the priority needs of the thousands of wounded and homeless.
In the days following the first earthquake an initial grant of IR£200,000 was made to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent to enable them to purchase essential supplies such as food, water and any available medicines locally.
A further £200,000 was allocated to the United Nations relief agencies operating in the region. This was divided between the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, and UNICEF. A sum of £50,000 was granted to OCHA to assist the Turkish Government in co-ordinating the relief effort. The remaining £150,000 was allocated to UNICEF to address essential needs by providing water and sanitation and supplying humanitarian goods such as bedding, fuel and medicines.
At the request of the Turkish Government, £190,000 was used to purchase medical supplies and water purification tablets in Ireland, which were unavailable in Turkey. Over four metric tonnes of these goods were transported to Istanbul, at no cost, by Aer Lingus and Turkish Airlines.
In response to the second earthquake that struck Duzce at the beginning of this month, a further £150,000 was allocated for the relief of  those affected. This money was divided between UNICEF and the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP. UNDP has a shelter programme addressing the needs of those left homeless by both earthquakes. UNICEF is addressing the nutritional needs of children and pregnant mothers living in shelters and is providing materials for tent schools. Both UNICEF and UNDP are also providing tents, sleeping bags, generators and stoves to the homeless. This recent allocation brings Ireland's humanitarian assistance to the victims of the earthquakes to almost three quarters of a million pounds.
The European Union, on behalf of the member states has also responded generously. The European Commission via the European Community Humanitarian Office – ECHO – announced initial grants totalling four 4 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the first earthquake. Following the most recent earthquake, an allocation of 3 million was made to ECHO NGO partners currently in the field, for the provision of immediate temporary shelter and emergency medicines. These grants are part of a planned 30 million package of humanitarian assistance. The remaining 23 million will be allocated in the coming weeks. This further funding will focus on addressing the needs of the persons made homeless by the disaster, providing weather resistant shelter and ensuring basic medical care. An ECHO technical assistant has been posted to Istanbul in order to facilitate further assessments and programming.
While the emergency response to the needs of the survivors of both quakes was quick and comprehensive, the Turkish Government now faces the formidable task of rebuilding the Marmara region. They are being supported in this by the international community. The immediate and long-term reconstruction effort in Turkey is being funded on a multilateral basis. The European Commission is proceeding with plans for new and substantial assistance for rehabilitation and reconstruction. It is proposed that loans of up to 600 million be provided to Turkey to assist in the reconstruction process. In addition, 150 million earmarked as regional aid for Turkey, will be allocated to assist in the reconstruction effort. Substantial assistance is also being provided by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, among others.
While the scale of these disasters has stretched available resources to their limits, fortunately Turkey is a developed country which has considerable resources with which to respond to the earthquakes. Turkey's large modern armed forces can be mobilised to assist relief efforts. The economy can support much of the relief and reconstruction efforts. Therefore, the role of the international community is to assist and facilitate the Turkish Government and people in their own efforts to deal with their current problems.
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