February 5, 2024

One year on, rebuilding Türkiye’s earthquake-affected economy

On the anniversary of the devastating earthquakes that struck Türkiye in February 2023, SPARK’s support continues to boost economic recovery.

As Türkiye solemnly marks the one-year anniversary of the devastating earthquakes that struck 11 provinces in the southern-east region including Hatay, Adana, Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, and Sanliurfa. The aftermath continues to cast a long shadow on the lives of 15.5 million people. The seismic catastrophe affected 15% of Türkiye’s population and contributed to the loss of up to 11% of the national GDP, according to estimates. The earthquakes led to the deaths of almost 50,000 people (as of March 2023) and caused 15,000 buildings to collapse.

The profound impact of the earthquakes on the physical, emotional, and economic well-being of Turkish society is undeniable. Findings reveal a staggering loss of wealth exceeding 100 billion USD.

Hatay has borne the brunt of the devastation, witnessing a 35% decrease in private sector employment. Speaking from Antakya, the capital of Hatay, in April 2023, Samet Fırat Soydemir, Head of ABIGEM (Türkiye Business Development Center), part of Antakya’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce, said: “I believe that 70% of the blue-collar workers have left the city. Some will not return because industrial employers in other cities have already hired qualified personnel.” 

Indeed, 12 months on and the stark reality is that one in every three individuals in Hatay finds themselves unemployed. Similarly, the provinces of Kahramanmaraş, Malatya and Adıyaman have also experienced significant declines in private sector employment, leaving tens of thousands without jobs. As much of the skilled workforce have relocated away from the earthquake region, which has negatively impacted the local economy. Therefore, providing tailored, needs-based support is key to incentivising people’s willingness to return to the region. Inclusivity for women, youth and refugees within these schemes, and awareness for their specific needs is important, as they are the most vulnerable groups in this disaster.

On this solemn anniversary, SPARK reflects on a year of concerted efforts to address the pressing economic challenges. In collaboration with Needs Map (İhtiyaç Haritası), one of our partners in Türkiye specialising in the assessment and urgent recovery, we conducted a swift needs assessment and regional mapping to assess the economic impact in the earthquake-affected region. 

The findings highlighted critical issues for local businesses, including the destruction of buildings, loss of machinery, and a scarcity of skilled workforce. The need for financial and technical support for companies to recover and resume operations is urgent. Disruption of value chains further complicates production and trade, affecting over 45,000 workplaces and prompting businesses to consider relocation.

“The economies of the earthquake-affected regions, that were once a hive of industry, continue to need support to return and reestablish economic activities,” said Quentin Tayfun Levet, Regional Programme Director for the Middle East at SPARK. “Alongside our local partners, the European Union, the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society and Albaraka Turk Bank, we’ve spent the last year supporting economic growth.” 

To support long-term regional economic recovery, SPARK’s two Regional Recovery Centers (RRDC) were established in cooperation with the Chambers of Commerce of Gaziantep and Adana. Together with Needs Map, UNDP and EU funding, the RRDCs have provided grants totalling €375,000 to 40 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to revive their operations and restore employment, especially in the most affected areas. SPARK continues to support these centres with technical assistance and human resources. 

In addition, in partnership with the Sheikh Abdullah Al Nouri Charity Society and Albaraka Turk Bank, SPARK is offering loan guarantees to small and medium-sized businesses in earthquake-affected provinces through a €1.1 million credit guarantee project.

To further support the affected regions, SPARK has donated six containers to Hatay Mustafa Kemal University and conducted a Training of Trainers (ToT) programme for university staff to equip them to better support students suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Despite these efforts, the situation for people living within the earthquake-affected regions remains difficult. To ensure sustainable rebuilding, SPARK has the following recommendations for the development community and the private sector: 

  • Businesses need fast-track support to ensure they can restart operations. Direct emergency grants or in-kind support can increase their capacity to produce urgently needed services and products for the vulnerable communities.
  • Tailored and needs-based coaching and mentoring can complement recovery grants, boosting business resilience. 
  • To “Build Back Better”, further collaboration with research centres and technology parks of universities and Chambers of Commerce can encourage an innovative green response and cost-effective digital solution for recovery and resilience of the private sector.

As Türkiye stands united in remembrance, SPARK continues to build on its strategic partnerships with Chambers of Commerce and municipalities to enhance the capacities of Regional Recovery and Development Centers for long-term economic recovery efforts. We aim to provide sustained support to these centres with technical assistance and human resources capacity, ensuring that efforts towards rebuilding the affected regions persist in the face of adversity. 

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