We all share the common desire to live a happy life in a peaceful and safe planet as the inhabitants of the earth, yet it is challenging to claim that there is a common will to realize this global goal. We have entered into the 21st century with great hopes accompanied by substantial efforts spent for humanity such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). However, we have witnessed an increase in human suffering with every passing year.
Particularly, the last 10 years were difficult for humanity due to natural and man-made disasters impacting vulnerable populations on a global scale. The impact of the crisis and disasters were larger in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) region when compared to others and unfortunately there is a rising trend.
Member countries of the OIC host half a billion of the people who are in the grip of extreme poverty around the globe. Moreover, slightly less than half of the OIC population cannot access proper sanitation services while 4 percent of the babies who are born in these countries die before they reach the age of 5. About 61 percent of refugees who are displaced due to armed conflicts live in the OIC countries. Today, conflicts and natural disasters leave 135 million people devastated and in need of humanitarian assistance around the globe. The majority (71 percent) of these people live in the OIC countries.
Although the OIC predominantly hosts developing countries, the average Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of its members is as high as 21, indicating a significant level of hunger. Additionally, one-third of all children are recorded as having stunted growth and 20 percent of underweight children in the world were in the OIC countries between 2009 and 2013. Most of the OIC countries tend to experience the double-sided distress of malnutrition; sometimes both malnutrition and excessive nutrition are seen together and at higher levels.
Emergencies, disasters and other calamities go beyond the stand-alone response capacity of many Red Crescent and Red Cross National Societies in the OIC region. The protracted and devastating crises in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Somalia proved that joint interventions and cooperation is essential. For example, 18 million people need urgent international assistance in Yemen while only 8 million suffer from severe food insecurity. Additionally, as a result of the crisis in Rakhine, an influx of 600,000 new refugees fled the violence in Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh which has led to the establishment of the most densely populated refugee settlement in the world.
On the other hand, the Syria crisis has led 5.3 million people to seek refuge in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. The refugee situation overburdens the response capacity of the National Societies in the region.
National Societies within the OIC region are structures that hold the responsibility to intervene in all kinds of emergencies by providing a wide range of services ranging from alleviating human suffering, protecting and improving dignity as well as the well-being of vulnerable individuals and communities.
The Red Crescent holds duties in fundamental areas such as ensuring a well-prepared community before emergency situations and disasters, empowering all members of the community to survive these situations, protecting and improving community health while assisting people who become vulnerable for various reasons.
The National Societies in the OIC region are currently tackling with the largest burden of humanitarian challenges. The partnership among National Societies will provide many opportunities mainly through sharing the burden among each other. The network will also help to reduce the burden through strengthening every partner in applying the rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts, ensuring that humanitarian measures for peace and confidence building are in place, promoting and supporting joint efforts in advocacy and resource mobilization.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in his capacity as the chairman of the 13th Islamic Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, appeals to the member countries to promote a more extensive and efficient collaboration among the Red Crescent and Red Cross National Societies that may play an important role in tackling humanitarian crises. This appeal has been incorporated into targets of the OIC-2025 Program of Action's Implementation Plan for 2016-2025.
This network will seek to increase resilience among communities, complementing the current capacities and provide coherence among the National Societies in reducing vulnerabilities at both social and organizational levels. It aims to serve as a platform for policy-making in the OIC region through applying humanitarian diplomacy, structured partnership as well as promoting participation and coping with humanitarian problems in a more systematic manner.
Over 200 humanitarian professionals from approximately 50 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the OIC member and observer countries will be represented at the senior level to discuss potential ways of tackling current humanitarian issues in the OIC region.
* The President of the Turkish Red Crescent