Humanitarian Action in 2020 and Difficulties Experienced

Mohamed Ouahi
Qatar Charity Turkey Director

The Qatar Charity’s (QC) Turkey office continues to provide its humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable IDPs, refugees, and host communities in North Syria and Turkey. Throughout 2020, QC has contributed significantly to addressing the needs of internationally displaced persons (IDPs) in Northwest Syria based on the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) and the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP). The QC Turkey office and its partners implemented a total of 1,091 relief and development projects in 2020 with total value of US$67.8 million that reached 3.6 million beneficiaries in North Syria and Turkey.

On February 28, 2020, QC launched the “HaGAl Sham” fund-raising campaign to address the needs of the largest displacement in North Syria that took place in late 2019. The campaign was under the supervision of the Regulatory Authority for Charitable Activities (RACA) and in cooperation with many media organizations in Qatar. The campaign managed to raise more than US$40 million. The QC Turkey office managed to utilize the raised funds, reaching out to 809,000 beneficiaries with relief projects that involved 31,500 food baskets, 5,175,000 bread packets, 43,500 new arrival kits and cooking sets, 600 tents, 100 school caravans, 5,500 hygiene kits, and 4,300 water containers being distributed, as well as 15,000 water trucks being sent to 22 camps, and 300,000 liters of fuel being delivered to 18 water stations. This was in addition to the medical consumables and surgical materials that were distributed to 70 health facilities. Moreover, QC and part of the campaign will continue implementing 16 projects during 2020 and 2021 in the sectors of shelter, food security, cleanliness, and health and education with a total budget of US$16.5 million targeting 2,125,840 beneficiaries in North Syria and Turkey. Moreover, the QC Turkey office as part of its social welfare department activities in 2020 managed to reach out to 5,690 sponsored families (orphans and poor families, both Syrian and Turkish) and provided financial assistance worth US$4.7 million; additionally implementing seasonal projects during the holy month of Ramadan and Eids al Fitr, and al Adha in Turkey with a total value of US$539,000.

Once the COVID-19 pandemic started, QC Turkey was among the first organizations to respond to the crisis. QC’s response included procuring and distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to more than 15,000 health workers in North Syria and Turkey. In addition, QC has co-founded and established 14 community-based COVID-19 Isolation Centers in coordination with the UN-OCHA health clusters in North Syria. The isolation centers were established and equipped for providing isolation and treatment services for COVID-19 patients with a total budget of US$2 million. The established centers received 2,840 cases during 2020.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought assorted challenges for actors in the humanitarian sector, including QC. Though the pandemic has not halted QC’s work, it has had a direct effect on QC’s project designs and implementations as well as its humanitarian workers. As precautionary measures for protecting its staff (its spearhead in the humanitarian response) and ensuring the continuity of its efforts, QC established a COVID-19 taskforce and prepared and approved a contingency plan. QC has adopted work-from-home, shift-system, and work-on-rotation modalities to minimize risks for contracting the disease.

Measures related to controlling COVID-19 at distribution centers and service delivery points have impacted the timely delivery of services and increased operational costs. To cope with this situation, QC has revised the operational budget and increased the number of staff for implementing projects by contracting volunteers and increasing the number of sites for distributing and delivering services. Moreover, additional line-item budgets for COVID-19 have been added upon project proposals to include PPE, disinfectants, and awareness of COVID-19.

Key lessons that have been learned as result of the pandemic include:

  • Focusing on reducing economic hardships by ensuring food security for the vulnerable
  • Prioritizing support for health infrastructure needs due to the pandemic
  • Contingency planning to adapt to the current situation with the expected funding cuts and changing donor priorities
  • Revisiting policies and guidelines so as to contribute positively to the measures that have been taken worldwide to slow the spread of the virus.
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