Turkey is a country, which has a deep-rooted tradition of extending its helping hand to those in need wherever they are, either far or close. The historical relations between Turkey and Ireland is a good example of the Turkish tradition of humanitarian assistance. During the Great Famine in Ireland in the late nineteenth century, the Ottoman Sultan, Abdülmecit I, sent three ships full of food to Ireland in 1847. The ships were unloaded at Drogheda, whose Mayor has a crescent and a star, like the Turkish flag, on its official Chain of Office. This sad page of Irish history has constituted an opportunity to create a unique bond of friendship between the Turkish and Irish nations, and these bonds of friendship are still remembered by the friendly Irish people.
The world is now facing its worst human suffering because of conflicts and disasters. More than 60 million people have been forced from their homes due to conflicts and violence. This is the biggest number of people being displaced since World War II. More than 200 million people are affected by disasters and need help. The gap between the needs and aid provided in response to humanitarian emergencies widens. In order to find solutions to this problem, the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit was organised jointly by the United Nations and Turkey in İstanbul on May 23 and 24, 2016. Nine-thousand participants from 180 Member States, including 55 Heads of State and Government came together in İstanbul. “We have had the honour to also host President Michael D Higgins at the Summit. Turkey, in view of these challenges, maintains its tradition and pursues an enterprising and humanitarian foreign policy through its official development and humanitarian aid, which in fact was one of the main recommendations of the said UN Summit.”
According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2017, prepared by Global Humanitarian Assistance Programme of Development Initiatives institution in the UK, Turkey ranks the largest donor country world-wide with its more than eight billion USD humanitarian assistance in 2017. Turkey also ranks first when the ratio of official humanitarian assistance to national income (0.85%) is taken into consideration. Turkey’s humanitarian aid is mainly delivered through AFAD (Turkish Disaster and Emergency Management Authority) and Turkish Red Crescent and development oriented humanitarian aid through TİKA (Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency).
Turkey presently hosts 4,300,000 refugees, more than any other country in the world. Over three and a half million of those refugees are Syrians, who are in Turkey for the seventh year now. More than one million of them are children. Currently, there are 21 temporary protection centers equipped with schools, hospitals and other facilities in 10 cities for those refugees. Syrians enjoy free health care and education in Turkey and can legally work in the labour market. So far, more than one and a half million Syrians received treatment in Turkish hospitals. More than 620,000 Syrian children continue their education in Turkish state schools. Turkey also built hospitals and schools in conflict-ridden parts of Syria, such as Azez, Cerablus etc. Turkey’s total expenditure has reached more than 32 billion US Dollars since the beginning of the war in Syria.
On the other side, development-oriented humanitarian assistance constitutes the ultimate target of Turkey’s efforts in this context. Turkey intervenes at the request of the host country with humanitarian aid for emergency humanitarian relief and continues with development projects, such as construction of basic infrastructure, hospitals and schools. This approach has been very successful particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Turkey’s policy to assist Somalia can be regarded as an exemplary case. All segments of Turkish society, from public institutions to NGOs and private sector, were mobilised to assist the people of Somalia following the severe famine in 2011. This approach has gradually evolved into a comprehensive policy, comprising humanitarian, developmental, as well as stabilisation efforts in an integrated strategy. Several projects were initiated, which consisted of human and institutional capacity building, construction of essential infrastructure, providing services such as education, sanitation and health etc, while humanitarian aid, such as delivering food and medicine, continued.
Turkey extends its helping hand indiscriminately, not only in response to emergencies in its region but also from the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to Yemen, from Colombia to Vietnam, from Nepal to Libya and Sudan, whether it is an emergency resulting from a conflict or a natural disaster.
Turkey’s humanitarian contributions are not confined to bilateral assistance projects. Turkey aims to further increase its contributions to various international organisations, as well. Turkey is closely working and cooperating with the UN and its related institutions. In order to assist further and to offer guidance to the UN’s humanitarian efforts, Turkey became a member of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) Donor Support Group, which brings together leading humanitarian donors. Turkey also financially supports and increased its financial contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in view of its recent budget constraints and provides also humanitarian aid through it.
In line with its historical tradition, Turkey will continue its humanitarian assistance and funding in cooperation with all partners for peace, security, stability and prosperity throughout the world.