The Government of Catalonia convened the Catalan Committee for Emergency Humanitarian Aid (CCAHE) on Wednesday in order to coordinate Catalonia's response to the crisis caused by the devastating earthquake that struck regions of Turkey, Syria and Kurdistan in the early hours of Monday morning. During the meeting, leading humanitarian institutions in Catalonia, including around 15 organisations in the Catalan development cooperation sector, representatives of the Catalan Government's Ministries of Foreign Action, Home Affairs, Health, Climate Action, Justice and Territory, government agencies at various levels and local institutions, shared the latest information on the situation on the ground, and discussed the needs expressed by their local counterparts.
The Minister for Foreign Action and European Union, Meritxell Serret i Aleu, chaired the Committee's meeting from Brussels, where she will be speaking at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions this afternoon. "When we convened the Committee, we wanted to coordinate Catalonia's solidarity and response to the humanitarian crisis, and to reinforce the culture of solidarity and peace that has always characterised Catalan society," she explained in a press conference. "We understand that the best way to be effective in solidarity is to work hand in hand with local authorities and organisations that have worked in the area in the past," she said. The minister once again conveyed the Catalan Government's support to the population affected, and expressed her condolences for the thousands of deaths caused by the earthquake.
She also highlighted the coordination that has taken place with the relevant consulates and local authorities from the outset, and in particular Rojava, the Kurdish autonomous administration in northern and eastern Syria, which has provided the Catalan Government with an initial report on its needs to be able to channel the aid. Although these early hours of the disaster are critical, Minister Serret stressed the need to take a long-term view. "Today is an initial emergency meeting to find out about demands and to organise aid, but we are aware that it does not end there, and that the impact of the earthquake will be felt for some time," said Serret, who added that she was committed to maintaining solidarity in the reconstruction phase.
As for the displays of solidarity that are being organised by civil society, the meeting also recommended making financial donations – rather than donations in kind – to institutions specialising in humanitarian initiatives that work in the field, as this is the most efficient way of channelling aid and ensuring that it reaches those who need it most.
Responses from Government of Catalonia ministries
- Ministry for Foreign Action and European Union
The Ministry for Foreign Action and European Union is engaged incoordinationand is monitoring the consequences of the earthquake, which has led to thousands of deaths and missing persons. It has also established permanent channels of communication with the relevant consulates, local authorities and Catalan cooperation organisations which are working on the ground to gain first-hand knowledge of the impact of the disaster and the rescue operations. There is as yet no record of any Catalans affected by the earthquake.
As regards humanitarian aid, the Ministry has convened the CCAHE, which has shared needs and launched mechanisms to send humanitarian aid to the affected areas. This year's budget allows the Ministry to increase the allocation for humanitarian action by 50%, from 4 to 6 million euros, in order to enhance the ability to react to emergencies like the one caused by the earthquake.
- Ministry of Justice, Rights and Memory
The Ministry of Justice, Rights and Memory has offered 22 professionals from the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences of Catalonia (IMLCFC). These professionals are experts in the field of forensic medicine with experience in various types of disasters and emergency operations, who have worked all over the world. Of the 22 professionals involved, 15 are forensic experts and 7 are autopsy specialists. A forensic odontologist and two anthropologists have also been offered.
- Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda
The Ministry of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, through the Catalan Waste Agency (ARC) and its subsidiary company Gestora de Runes de la Construcció (GRC), is working on a plan for clearance of the areas affected by the earthquake, based on two possible scenarios: an initial action in the immediate short term, which would involve sending machinery to the area to support the rescue work and immediate recovery of the region; and a second action involving the implementation of a medium-term plan for the removal, recovery and treatment of the vast rubble created by the earthquake. According to EU objectives, one of the priorities in the management of construction waste is to recycle and treat rubble and soil in order to maximise the use of reusable fractions. In this case, the plan designed by GRC would also involve transforming the waste into new raw materials for the reconstruction of the affected areas.
- Ministry of Health
The Ministry of Health, which has extensive experience in emergency situations like the one caused by the earthquake, will be providing health material and equipment, as well as health personnel based on specific requests from the area affected.
- Ministry of Home Affairs
The Ministry of Home Affairs has offered officers from various security forces within the framework of the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism: four members of the canine investigation unit; four from the subsoil unit; four from the mountain rescue unit; and members of the Government of Catalonia Fire Brigade, specialising in Civil Protection rescue and life-saving.