Afghanistan and Turkey are two of the world’s earthquake hotspots – and both are making huge efforts to upgrade or replace thousands of at-risk schools, their world wrote.
Afghanistan had 160 quakes in the past year – most of them deep under the ground and not causing any damage. The last major earthquake was in 2015, when more than 400 people died and 2500 were injured in the Hindu Kush mountain range.
But the next big one could happen at any time – and a major disaster on a school day could affect as many as five million students, according to Julian Palma, a disaster risk management specialist at the World Bank.
“Given Afghanistan’s vulnerability to natural disasters, it’s urgent to build safer schools and rehabilitate older facilities in order to protect lives,” he said.
Turkey suffered one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes in 1999, when more than 18,000 people were killed and 700 schools destroyed.
The education ministry is building 1500 earthquake-resistant classrooms in the next three years to ensure safe access to education for Syrian refugee children and host communities.
The World Bank is working with both countries to help deliver disaster-proof schools. Palma said: “Of the 16,400 existing schools in Afghanistan, a vast majority are single-storey masonry school buildings that are highly vulnerable to earthquakes.
“Nearly 90% of existing schools were built by the community using unskilled labour and inexperienced construction management.”
Palma wrote in a World Bank blog that schools are often built on the most vulnerable land and there is currently no evidence of retrofitting – modifying existing schools to make them safer.
The World Bank is working with the government and other partners to conduct a disaster risk analysis for the education sector. The Afghan government is planning to reach 100% school enrolment by the year 2030 by building 20,000 new schools.
In Turkey, more than 70% of the population live in areas at risk of earthquakes.
More than 40,000 new Syrian and Turkish students are expected to benefit from the 56 new disaster-resilient education facilities to be built in the next three years.
Ozcan Duman, head of the education ministry’s construction department, said authorities are implementing a Safe Schools Programme with technical and financial support from the World Bank and GFDRR (Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery).
He said the work will “help render the existing school building stock safe and compliant with the latest seismic code.”