One of the most fatal earthquakes in the 20th century was the 1980 earthquake in El- Asnam which destroyed 80% of the city, killed or injured around 10.000 people and rendered 300,000 people homeless. More than US$4 billion was the estimated damage to houses and infrastructures, aside from extensive damage to valuable archeological sites and to the countryside.
In the aftermath of this devastating quake, UNESCO was invited by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFSED) and the Islamic Bank to assess the requirements of ten Arab countries and submit proposals for reducing earthquake risk. In 1983, the Programme for Assessment and Mitigation of Earthquake Risk in the Arab Region (PAMERAR) was launched, funded by an overall loan of US$21 million from AFSED to Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia ,Iraq and Yemen .
Objectives and achievements of PAMERAR
Based on the preliminary evaluation carried out, the objectives of PAMERAR, on a national basis, are to establish or reinforce seismic and strong motion networks, promote the formulation of aseismic building codes and provide training in seismology, earthquake engineering and civil defense.
As a result of PAMERAR, a number of Arab countries have substantially improved their human and physical capabilities in earthquake risk reduction. Training courses in seismology, earthquake engineering and civil defense were conducted to develop skills, and seismic and strong motion networks of approximately 300 instruments have been installed, i.e. in Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Egypt, as well as equipment for civil defense. Earthquake resistant building codes have been set up in Algeria, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
The Role of UNESCO in PAMERAR
UNESCO implements the training and technical assistance components of the PAMERAR national projects in Morocco, Tunisia and Syria. More than 3000days/men of training have been provided for scientists, engineers and technicians since the start of the programme, and more than 35 missions of technical assistance have been organized. UNESCO has been the catalyst for the participation of Arab states in international programmes .