2021: A Year in Disaster Areas

İbrahim Özer
Director General for Disaster Management, Turkish Red Crescent

Society has established many different types of organizations over the years in order to deal with disasters. Lessons learned from previous disasters have played roles as contributing factors to progress in the development of these models. Lessons learned from the disasters and the great destructions that follow has made it essential to transition from an intervention-focused approach, to a model that is focused on preparation, planning and risk reduction. Communities must be prepared for disasters before they occur and it has become essential to move to a ‘community-based and holistic’ approach – a modern approach that aims to create resilient societies. With our many years of experience and abilities, as the Turkish Red Crescent, we have now entered the phase of constructing a modern disaster management system. 

According to Türkiye’s Disaster Response Plan, the Turkish Red Crescent is the main partner to the Nutrition working group. In 2021, many developments occurred regarding this issue. The ‘Nutrition Platform’ was established to ensure that there is a standard for the nutrition needs of disaster victims, that these needs are prepared for in advance, to increase cooperation between relevant organizations and bodies. This body is now more actively operated in a coordinated manner. Thus, there is now a standard for which nutritional needs of disaster victims will be met and a more effective strategy in actually meeting those needs.  

Important progress was also made in the Nutrition Strategic Plan, which was developed to detect the local resources and abilities in terms of nutrition and to coordinate these local abilities with the aim of a more effective approach to the issue. Within this, a nutrition model was constructed; catering companies, soup kitchens in provinces and districts, hot food production areas, logistics warehouse and transfer centers, bakeries, radio communication capacities and food safety standards were included in the plan. 48 provincial nutrition strategies were completed in 2021 and it is aimed to complete them all by 2022.

Command Coordination

In an attempt to ensure that disaster response works are conducted in a systematic and coordinated manner, a special unit was designed under the ‘Command Coordination’ in 2021. This organizes the whole of the Turkish Red Crescent on the ground when responding to a disaster, and has been designed to ensure full coordination from the very moment teams enter the disaster areas and leave and to ensure a rapid, timely and effective response.

Disaster Coordination Teams

Disaster Coordination Teams (AKT) that began in 2020, provide preparedness and training, and were formed in all disaster response centers in 2021. 10 AKTs were formed consisting of 33 people. Their sole responsibility is to provide effective information and directives to disaster response units to ensure they rapidly enter disaster zones, how they can conduct needs assessments and in which capacity teams need to make preparations. Upon receiving core training, in addition to their prevalent roles, these teams have the capacity to act as AKTs during disasters. 

Benefiting from the Turkish Red Crescent’s branches, and with the aim of actively using them, Branch Response Teams (ŞAT) were also established in order to ensure that the local branches prepare the disaster areas for central response teams to effectively organize. At the moment, 107 Branch Response Teams, with 769 volunteers who have completed their training, are ready for any disaster. 

Monitoring/Reviewing and Reporting 

Monitoring/Reviewing and Reporting teams were established in order to ensure that any areas where there are setbacks in the response to disasters can be identified and improved. While response centers across all provinces approach disasters in a common approach, the ‘Disaster Command System’ ensures that these teams follow and analyze all developments.

Packaged Foods

Research and Development studies are being conducted to find packaged foods that are long lasting and can be served rapidly to people in need after disasters and response teams before nutrition teams enter the field and coordinate effectively. With this, it is aimed to have ready prepared hot food to distribute in the first minutes the disaster occurs. 

Turkish Red Crescent Search and Rescue 

In addition to nutrition services, search and rescue teams have been established to support these efforts on a local and municipality level. These search and rescue teams have completed all the relevant training in this field provided by AFAD. Trainings are continuing with the cooperation of AFAD to establish medium-level and environmental search and rescue teams.

COVID-19 Pandemic 

With restrictions put in place by the Ministry of Interior, people visiting Türkiye from abroad, those who were put into quarantine and staff who worked in the halls where these people were guests were provided with food with the coordination of the 81 Disaster Response Centers and Turkish Red Crescent branches. 

A General Overview of Disasters in 2021 

Having left us with permanent scars in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic continued throughout 2021. This pandemic has led us to take overall lessons from life, and to work towards reducing risks with community-based approaches. It became clear that preparing society for disasters required all societal elements to be included. 

In 2021, the Turkish Red Crescent responded to 112 natural and man-made emergencies and disasters. In addition to the nutrition responsibilities assigned by TAMP, the Turkish Red Crescent also conducted services in psychosocial support and in-kind support, reaching out to a total of 4,160,024 people.

The following table displays the number of people reached according to the type of disaster:

Disaster TypeNumber of DisastersPeople Reached
Search and Rescue Facilities64,850
Extreme Snow2915,810
Urban/Forest Fires39665,814
Mining Accidents1480
Epidemic Diseases11,817,496
Transportation Accidents 43,407

A total of 39 urban/forest fires occurred including those that broke out in Antalya Manavgat, Mersin Aydıncık, Osmaniye, Adana, Muğla, and Marmaris. 10,992 Turkish Red Crescent personnel and volunteers responded to these fires. Humanitarian assistance and food was delivered to people affected from these disasters. 

Without overcoming the devastation caused by the fires listed above, 5 big (Kastamonu Bozkurt, Artvin Arhavi, Rize Güneysu, Bartın, Sinop Ayancık) and 17 small floods occurred, resulting in 22 floods in the country in 2021. A total of 1,185 Turkish Red Crescent personnel and volunteers responded to these floods. Humanitarian assistance and food was delivered to people affected from these disasters. 

Due to heavy snowfall across the country, in 29 different areas, 227 personnel and volunteers provided hot food to people stuck on the streets and helped with efforts to re-open closed off roads. 

The table below lists the number of personnel and volunteers according to disaster types:

Disaster TypeNumber of PersonnelNumber of Volun-teers
Search and Rescue Facilities1547
Extreme Snow125102
Urban/Forest Fires55010,442
Mining Accidents179
Epidemic Diseases15,961
Transportation Accidents 99

With a holistic disaster management system, the Turkish Red Crescent is ensuring to reach all segments of society. Our efforts will continue, from ensuring children are taught about disaster preparedness at school and that those living in the far ends of the country are reached too. We must never forget that the geography we live in is a disaster-prone one and that we can ensure minimal disaster casualties by ensuring that the necessary steps are taken.

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