In February 2023, Türkiye was hit by two very large magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes, followed by thousands of aftershocks and then another large, magnitude 6.7, earthquake. The earthquakes inflicted the heaviest damages in 11 provinces in southern Türkiye, home to 14 million Turkish citizens, representing 16 percent of the country’s population and 1.8 million Syrian refugees. 

GFDRR played a pivotal role in ensuring that recently constructed schools in Türkiye withstood what has now become the deadliest earthquake disaster in the country’s modern history. 

Since 2017, with support from GFDRR, the World Bank, and the European Commission, Türkiye’s Ministry of National Education has built 57 schools, representing over 1,400 classrooms, based on Türkiye’s latest seismic code, which was updated in 2018 in accordance with international earthquake engineering standards. 

Every single one of the 24 schools located in areas affected by the February 2023 earthquakes and aftershocks survived. Fortunately, the earthquakes struck outside of school hours, which also contributed to saving the lives of students and educators. 

“Most of the parents came to look at the school. They saw that there is not even the smallest crack or plaster crack in our school,” said Murat Çiçekdal, School Manager for the Martyr Ercan Sanca Primary School. “We continue our educational activities seamlessly where we left before the earthquake.” 

Among the 24 schools in affected areas, four schools located in Kahramanmaraş Province were used by the Turkish government to provide temporary shelters. These same schools were also used by the government for the provision of vital services for affected populations. 

Across Türkiye, it is estimated that over 40,000 people now have access to safer and resilient schools as a result of the Ministry of National Education’s initiative on safer schools, supported under the Education Infrastructure for Resilience Project. Roughly half of the beneficiaries are estimated to be female. 

In addition to seismic safety, each of the 57 schools built through this project also complied with Turkish codes and regulations on land use planning, energy efficiency, fire protection, workplace safety, and access for people with disabilities. The end result has been a safer and better learning environment for students and trainees. 

These efforts build upon the World Bank’s comprehensive technical assistance program for a resilient built environment in Türkiye. This program includes support for innovative approaches toward building urban resilience and scaling up disaster-resilient and energy-efficient buildings; the support has been made possible through two GFDRR grants under the Japan Program. 

Since 2015, Türkiye has partnered with GFDRR and the World Bank to ensure that schools across the country are safer and more resilient to disaster. 

In the context of the Education Infrastructure for Resilience Project and the Disaster Risk Management in Schools Project, GFDRR in particular has connected the Turkish government with international experience on safer schools, helped established a program on reducing seismic risk, and supported the expansion of disaster-resilient education infrastructure. Türkiye’s leadership on prioritizing safer schools was highlighted in a video presented at the GFDRR 2023 Partnership Days

GFDRR’s support for safer and more resilient schools is only one part of the facility’s broader engagement with Türkiye, a deep and long-standing partnership that was brought to bear following the February 2023 earthquakes and aftershocks. 

In the immediate aftermath of the devastation, GFDRR and the World Bank conducted an assessment to gauge the cost of the direct damage. The Global Rapid Post-Disaster Damage Estimation (GRADE) methodology harnessed diverse data sources—including historical damage data, drone footage, satellite data, expert knowledge, and social media—to provide an initial estimation of direct physical damage within a mere two weeks. 

The findings of the GRADE report were sobering, revealing an estimated $34.2 billion in direct physical damage caused by the earthquakes. The Turkish government, with the support of its development partners, then were able to estimate that the costs for recovery and reconstruction would surpass $81 billion. Approximately 5 percent of the 20,000 education buildings in the earthquake-affected areas either collapsed entirely or were severely or moderately damaged. 

Beyond damage assessments, a $1 million grant was mobilized from GFDRR through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has also supported the design of the $1 billion Türkiye Earthquake Reconstruction and Recovery Project.

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View more results stories from fiscal year 2023 in GFDRR's Annual Report 2023.