There are still a large number of countries that struggle to get by on their own with poor living conditions and a lack of access to sufficient food, water and infrastructure. The most alarming situation is in Africa where the numbers show slight but steady increases in nearly all regions. Considering this humanitarian emergency, various Turkish governmental and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) and Sen de Gel, carry out projects to raise the living standards of people in Africa through regional improvement and economic development programs.
According to 2018 data from the U.N., the number of people living in extreme poverty has steadily increased to 260 million in Africa. The people there lack clean drinking water, which is the primary reason for child deaths on the continent.
In 2011, two delegates from the Gambia came to visit Turkey's Community Volunteers Foundation (TOG). They stated that they are coming from an organization working for women's development and childcare in Gambia and that they wanted to collaborate with the TOG. Businessman İbrahim Betil was there, and he wanted to visit Gambia to see the conditions and understand what is needed in the country. After staying there for a week and seeing the daily struggles, he came back to make a change. They could either ignore the situation or develop projects to contribute to the people in a world where 1 billion people are fighting against poverty and a lack of water. They decided to choose the second path and thus, the nonprofit group Sen de Gel was founded in 2012.
Sustainable development, durable projects
Pouring resources, food and aid packages into Africa will not have a long-term effect, as the countries there will be dependent on help again as soon as those resources are depleted. Therefore, the main aim of relief organizations is to help Africa help itself by carrying out more sustainable and durable projects that will help people maintain their lives.
"Our aim is not to distribute aid, but rather to comprehend the needs of the local people and put into practice projects that will contribute to people sustaining their lives," Betil told Daily Sabah.
Within this scope, Sen de Gel has contributed to opening water wells, lighting through solar energy, mills, animal breeding, scholarships for education and internships for successful young people, as well as other programs. Fighting poverty, generating employment, making projects for the development of women and young people, collaborating with national and international civic and other like-minded organizations, taking the U.N. Development Goals into consideration, and especially focusing on the problems of "the least-developed countries" can be described as the main goals of Turkish NGOs successfully operating in Africa.
"Imagine a world where 48% of children die without reaching the age of 5, where women have to walk at least 3-4 kilometers every day to access drinking water… When I visited the Gambia four months ago, 300-400 people welcomed us at the opening of a well with joy. A woman with baby twins in her arms approached me and said, 'Thank you. Now, these babies will live,'" Betil said.
TİKA, which carries out a number of activities in terms of water and sanitation, cooperated with Sen de Gel in 2014 when eight wells were opened in Gambia, enabling 5,000 people access to clean drinking water.
Similarly, it dug an artesian water well this June in Kenya under the Water First for People project, which aims to reduce water-related diseases, waiting times at water tankers and the walking distance to get water. In addition to water sanitation activities, TİKA also carries out projects in different areas including dental care, health, education and farming.