Ramadan, which will begin this weekend, will see a flurry of humanitarian aid events by Turkish charities. For its part, the Turkish Red Crescent seeks to reach out to some 8 million people. The charity’s president, Dr. Kerem Kınık, told reporters at a press conference in Istanbul on Monday that their current budget for aid activities was $7.4 million (TL 110 million).
The charity, active since the 19th century when it was founded with the purpose of helping wounded soldiers, has evolved into a nationwide organization and expanded its international presence. Nowadays, it works in a wide variety of fields, from aid to internally displaced persons to refugees in Turkey, while also facilitating early response efforts to disaster zones in all corners of the world, carrying humanitarian aid to victims of natural disasters and conflicts, from Asia to Africa.
“The Red Crescent is a solidarity platform between the charitable people of Turkey and those living in poverty, people who had to flee their homes, refugees, frail people, people living in places struck by disasters,” Kınık said at the press conference. He said they reached out to about 7.5 million people in their aid campaigns last year and this year, they would increase to at least 8 million, counting on more donations. “We will have 75,000 volunteers in the field, as well as 12,308 regular personnel of the Turkish Red Crescent working in aid activities,” he said.
For aid in Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent touts the “Kızılay Card,” a pre-paid debit card allowing its holders to shop anywhere, instead of waiting for aid workers to deliver food, clothes and other materials. Kınık highlighted that the card had the highest number of holders, at about 2 million, in terms of similar charity cards. This year, some 220,000 families will benefit from a monthly cash aid of TL 500 ($33) for Ramadan.
The charity also plans to deliver iftar dinners for about 3.8 million people with its 31 soup kitchens and 74 mobile kitchens. Iftar dinners are a staple of aid campaigns in Ramadan, as the evening meal marks the end of the fasting for the faithful.
The Turkish Red Crescent will also tap into another Islamic holiday for Ramadan: Qurban Bayram, or Eid al-Adha. The holiday, where Muslims slaughter sacrificial animals and distribute part of their meat to the needy, was marked last year, but the charity turned the donated meat into canned meat for a yearlong distribution scheme. The canned food will be delivered throughout Ramadan, Kınık said. For children, the charity will deliver clothes and gifts on the occasion of Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr, which is marked at the end of the fasting month.
Overall, the charity will deliver food and clothes in 23 countries, apart from cash aid and iftar dinners.