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BRIEF November 29, 2018

How Can You Save the Lives of Children in Case of an Earthquake?



Connecting Global Knowledge for Safe and Resilient Schools in the Kyrgyz Republic

While stunning natural landscapes and breathtaking lake and mountain views make the Kyrgyz Republic a sight to behold, this beauty also belies the seismic risks laying just below the country’s surface. At particular risk are the nearly 1 million students attending one of the more than 3,000 schools around the country – many of which are vulnerable to powerful earthquakes.

Together with the World Bank, the Kyrgyz Republic is taking a number of steps to increase the country’s resilience to earthquakes, including a recent, four-day, south-south knowledge exchange in Istanbul. There, a high-ranking delegation comprised of senior government officials and members of parliament learned about the Istanbul Seismic Mitigation and Emergency Preparedness (ISMEP) project and how lessons from this project could be applied to the Kyrgyz context, making schools resilient at scale.


The Kyrgyz delegation in front of a retrofitted school (ongoing).

World Bank, 2018

Children are our future and their protection has become a priority in both Turkey and the Kyrgyz Republic since the catastrophic impacts of past earthquakes - including the 1999 Marmara earthquake in Turkey, which killed more than 17,000 people. With the support of the World Bank, ISMEP has retrofitted over 780 schools and reconstructed another 270 – better ensuring the safety of 1.5 million students and staff in Istanbul, a city of 15 million people.

What started as a $400 million World Bank project soon triggered a cascade financing effect, resulting in five international institutions providing $2 billion in total financing.

Similarly, in 2015, the Kyrgyz government adopted the State Program on Safer Schools and Preschools, which the World Bank is actively supporting through the recently approved $20 million Enhancing Resilience in Kyrgyzstan (ERIK) project. Component 2 of this project commits $12 million to the safety of students, retrofitting or replacing schools that are highly-vulnerable to seismic activity. To support efforts in both Turkey and the Kyrgyz Republic to save the lives of children, the World Bank’s Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS) facilitated this south-south knowledge exchange between the two nations.


The meetings of the Kyrgyz delegation with their Turkish colleagues laid the foundation for future knowledge sharing and exchange activities benefitting both countries.

World Bank, 2018

The delegation visited different schools to better understand cost-efficient intervention strategies that allowed ISMEP to create safe schools at scale throughout Istanbul. The delegation also discussed the benefits and challenges of retrofitting school buildings with the Directors and Deputy Directors of the Istanbul Project Coordination Unit (ISMEP’s implementation unit), the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM) and the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). These meetings laid the foundation for future knowledge sharing and exchange activities benefitting both countries.

Among several topics discussed, the following were highlighted from the ISMEP experience:

  • Seismic retrofitting of schools has proven to be the most cost-efficient solution to making schools safer and more resilient at scale. Retrofitting can be up to 8 times more affordable than school replacement and only takes a quarter of the time on average.
  • To maximize investment benefits and the number of children saved over time, robust prioritization criteria should be based on technical and objective indicators.
  • ISMEP has proven to be economically viable and sustainable in the long-term, which triggered the cascade financing effect. At the national level, the Turkish authorities estimate that every euro invested in risk reduction can save up to eight euros in crisis management and recovery.
  • Communicating these benefits effectively to all stakeholder groups - including the broader community - helps to ensure their understanding and ownership of the disaster mitigation intervention.
  • The Kyrgyz delegation expressed their interest to AFAD and AKOM in sending representatives from relevant agencies, including the Ministry of Emergency Situations, to attend trainings in these institutions, ranging from overall crisis management to search and rescue activities.

This work was done in coordination with members of the  World Bank Europe and Central Asia Disaster Risk Management Team, with support from the  Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) and the Japan-World Bank Program for Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Developing Countries.