Turkey’s disaster agency active in 40 countries across the world
Deniz Zeyrek – ANKARATurkey’s disaster agency is not only housing and assisting the country’s nearly 3 million refugees but also actively working to help 40 disaster-stricken countries around the world, the president of the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has told daily Hürriyet upon receiving the 20th prestigious Aydın Doğan Award for its outstanding efforts in Turkey and abroad.
“We have undertaken serious responsibilities in responding to natural disasters and migration across Turkey’s borders,” AFAD head Fuat Oktay said, underlining the agency’s assistance during flood disasters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bosnia and Herzegovina and migration in Myanmar and Somalia. The AFAD is actively involved in assisting over 40 countries, he added.
Oktay also explained the agency’s changing priorities since Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan was tasked with coordinating efforts concerning Syrian refugees, suggesting the agency used to be more camp-oriented – an approach that has started to change.
“Currently, we are in a period where all health services are being provided inside and outside of [refugee] camps. As long as a person is registered, we provide the same service, in terms of medical examinations and prescription medicine, as is provided to Turkish citizens,” Oktay stressed.
He also touched upon controversial plans to build a refugee camp in predominantly Alevi-populated villages in the southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş, which has witnessed public outcry as locals fear ethno-religious tensions with the possible arrival of people with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or al-Nusra.
Oktay underlined the AFAD has always demonstrated sensitivity in its approach to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Armenians in Syria and Iraq, adding it was “unthinkable” for the agency not to demonstrate the same understanding to its own people.
“Our citizens are rightfully worried at first but they become happy once the camps are built,” he claimed, saying the agency makes all its purchases locally, which stands out as a strong contribution to local economies.
“At a time like this, Turkey hosts the most refugees. It provides the highest amount of financial aid compared to its national income,” Oktay said, suggesting future generations would be proud of these efforts.
In addition to its work in assisting refugees and helping disasters abroad, the agency also continues to prepare Turkey for a disaster, the agency head underlined.
Accordingly, all public institutions, ministries, civil society organizations and local and national administrative bodies have been integrated into the AFAD’s disaster management efforts. A total of 28 service groups have been formed to take responsibility for rescue efforts, nutrition, housing and logistics to communications in case of a disaster.