2020: The Year of Global Humanitarian Crises

Alper Küçük
Turkish Red Crescent Deputy General Manager

2020 has been a year in which we’ve intensely felt the impacts of globalization and importance of global solidarity. Evaluating any crisis on a local scale is practically impossible currently. The year we’ve left behind us has shown that we need to calculate how a problem that started in a specific region, a humanitarian crisis, will be able to affect a wide geography or perhaps even the whole world through the butterfly effect.

The coronavirus outbreak that occurred in Wuhan, China spread all over the world in a very short time. Despite countries’ attempts to take precautions against this disease without a cure, nearly 90 million people came down with the virus, with more than 2 million people having died. The measures countries have tried to take against this illness have brought other problems with it. Problems occurred in the supply of surgical masks and hygiene materials, which are the most effective method against the spread of the disease. We’ve experienced days when owning money isn’t enough. Economic life has come to a standstill due to curfews, and accessing even the most basic of human needs has become difficult for many people.

Turkey has also been heavily impacted by this global health problem. As a result of the coordinated and outstanding efforts of all relevant institutions of our state, in particular the Ministry of Health, Turkey has faced this crisis better than many other countries. Thanks to investments made in the health system, the bed capacities and respiratory devices used in the treatment process were able to easily respond to the need. No major problems were experienced in the supply of masks and sanitary supplies. Turkey, meeting its own needs, also did not hesitate to lend a helping hand to other countries in need. Moreover, some of the countries to which we provided aid were countries with very high levels of economic development.

The Turkish Red Crescent has also fulfilled the humanitarian duties that fell upon it in this process with great determination and devotion. Working shoulder to shoulder with the relevant state institutions and organizations, the masks, sanitary supplies, and medical devices needed by both Turkey and other countries were supplied and delivered to those in need. In this challenging time when many countries and traditional humanitarian relief and development organizations have had to withdraw due to the pandemic, the Turkish Red Crescent has struggled to meet humanitarian needs and save lives not only in its own geography but on many different fronts. Once again the star of the Turkish-style model of relief shined in the international arena. The Red Crescent has reshaped each of its own activity areas according to the pandemic conditions and needs without leaving people on their own, and continuing to not leave people.

Certainly, the coronavirus pandemic was not the only global problem the world dealt with in 2020. Many humanitarian crises from the past and that unfortunately have continued to grow have maintained their presence. Even if we list only the main ones, the size of the humanitarian responsibility and struggle we’re engaged in will be understood.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Global Report 2019, there are 79.5 million refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless displaced people in the world. According to the 2019 UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, 2 billion people around the world do not have access to safe drinking water. According to WHO’s 2019 Monitoring Report, 5.2 million children die every year before reaching the age of 5. According to the same report, 1 million people die from AIDS, 1.4 million from tuberculosis, and 400,000 from malaria every year. Many of these deaths are due to lack of access to basic human needs such as food and health care.

According to the 2020 World Disaster Report published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, more than 100 major disasters occurred in the first six months of the year, with more than 50 million people being affected by these disasters. The effects on our world from natural disasters as well as the threat of climate change have become more frightening with each passing day. Climate-related disasters over the past decade having claimed the lives of more than 410,000 people and affecting 1.7 billion people worldwide reveals disasters’ magnitude. Disasters such as the pandemic and global warming also trigger other disasters and humanitarian crises.

This emergent picture increases the Turkish Red Crescent’s existing need for efforts on other people not just in our country but in the world with each passing day. The Turkish Red Crescent has been active in 57 countries on 3 continents despite the difficult foundations the pandemic conditions’ have formed within 2020. The number of country delegations with the most intense humanitarian crises was increased to 16. In-kind and in-cash humanitarian aid was sent directly to 45 countries. A hand was extended to total of 8.2 million people in need with an international humanitarian aid budget of 189 million TL. Significant steps have been taken to have İstanbul Airport become an aid logistics base for the regional geography by providing space for constructing the IFRC Humanitarian Aid Logistics Center. With our world’s largest cash-based and community-based programs conducted with a focus on migrants and the benefit of local people and our child programs developed specifically for children, we’ve both made millions of needy faces smile and set an example through the humanitarian aid models we put forth.

Beyond being a strong member of the humanitarian aid sector, the Turkish Red Crescent has become an organization that directs humanitarian aid strategies in the world with its operational capabilities, trained and experienced human resources, logistics power, and international reputation.

The point the world has reached has made it possible to say that humanitarian needs are constantly increasing as a result of threats such as wars, armed conflicts, natural disasters, pandemics, and global climate change; however, humanitarian funds do not increase at the same rate with the economic contraction. In line with this determination, humanitarian law and advocacy activities gain importance in terms of local structuring and preventing humanitarian crises before they occur in order to further develop international cooperation and coordination and more effective use of limited resources as well as to minimize the costs of logistics processes. Supporting the economic well-being of those in need by using livelihood developmental activities also occurs among our strategic activities as a long-term solution for protecting human dignity and social welfare.

We need to work together for a better world by planning, learning, and implementing together better.

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