TIKA President Serdar Çam: Turkey keeps breaking records in humanitarian aid and development assistance

NUR ÖZKAN ERBAY
Ankara
Published 10.12.2018 00:00
Updated 10.12.2018 08:17
TİKA President Serdar Çam says the agency’s aim is to contribute to developing countries by transferring Turkey’s experience and know-how to consolidate fair and sustainable cooperation based on mutual trust.
TİKA President Serdar Çam says the agency’s aim is to contribute to developing countries by transferring Turkey’s experience and know-how to consolidate fair and sustainable cooperation based on mutual trust.

With its unique development model, Turkey's flagship development agency TİKA prioritizes a sincere, transparent, human-centered and sustainable approach for its projects across the world, the aid agency's president says

Turkey's emergency and humanitarian aid fund was around $3.2 billion in 2015, $6.4 billion in 2016 and had surpassed $8 billion in 2017, corresponding to 0.85 percent of the country's national dividend. With these numbers, Turkey is leading the world in humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, in terms of official development assistance, Turkey has surpassed the United Nations' target of allocating 0.7 percent of the national dividend to aid funds this year by dedicating 0.95 percent. Increasing its development assistance by 25 percent and reaching $8.1 billion, Turkey has become the sixth highest ranking country in official development assistance, overtaking many developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) President Dr. Serdar Çam said that Turkey has adopted the Turkish Development Model prioritizing sincerity, transparency, human-centered approach and responsiveness along with fairness, resolution, sustainable partnership and reciprocity.

Çam also said the following, "Our main aim is to contribute to developing countries by conveying Turkey's experience and to consolidate fair and sustainable cooperation which is based on mutual trust with friendly countries. Moreover, we desire to become a helping hand to disadvantaged regions when necessary."

You reap what you sow

Expressing that Turkey acts neither thoughtlessly nor indifferently to the humanitarian crises, Çam said, "A state cannot spend its energy aimlessly and thoughtlessly. Aid has to be planned and facilities have to be consolidated. While you are helping another country, you are indirectly preventing a possible conflict on the border and in the region. You have to remember that it may have consequences. Does garbage or lack of electricity and water only affect one country? Is the impact of terrorism, ignorance and being against female education limited to a country? We're not in a region that allows us to be indifferent. A psychopath could emerge from the Scandinavian countries and realize a terrorist attack. The world is smaller and closer; every country should contribute as much as it can. Turkey is investing in its next generation by being moral and fair. Will we let an unmanageable humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Palestine or Africa become the problem of the next generations? I can assure you that your contribution will return either materially or spiritually. As a faithful nation, we're thinking about the moral and conscientious dimensions of these issues."

Signifying that the targets and priorities of TİKA overlap with Turkish foreign policy determined by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Çam expressed the following, "TİKA has a bright future. A strong wind is blowing and this is the reflection of the support provided by President Erdoğan. It wouldn't be possible to overcome challenges without his patronage along with his material and morale support. TİKA is growing 10-15 percent every year in accordance with its regional activity. This is an important field for Turkey. Considering the Syrian crisis and other issues in the region, it's meaningful to have a structure that will allow TİKA to increase its area of influence. We should be where there are issues."

High level of humanitarian aid when factors calculated

Çam expressed that Turkey spent $33 billion for Syrian refugees and that this amount was calculated according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standards.

"These numbers could be calculated according to European standards with its factors, work hours and allowance. There is a significant difference between Turkey's direct and indirect contributions. For instance, you may send a professional surgical team to another country. We have sent doctors to perform surgery on Georgian children who have defects due to radiation and they performed these surgeries without demanding any payment. This kind of surgery costs around $100,000 around the world. For this reason, we allocate a certain capacity for each ministry in Turkey to provide help abroad. Ranging from agriculture to healthcare, we're able to create a hundredfold aid capacity with only one unit," he said.

Some $8.2 billion in humanitarian aid in 2019

Stating that TİKA has a $100 million budget for 2019, Çam underscored that this amount will multiply with the aid coming from municipalities, ministries and other public institutions.

"Foreign aid to be provided by public institutions is around $8.2 billion. This is the total of added value created by all ministries," he commented.

Çam expressed that especially educational and healthcare aid will increase along with humanitarian and emergency aid, while asserting that TİKA will focus on projects aiming to decrease the maternal and infant mortality rates.

"People are grateful to us. We're working on finishing the constructions of maternity wards and children's hospital in Djibouti and Niger along with a hospital in Gaza. It will be the greatest healthcare investment made in Palestine. God willing, we will successfully conclude 2018. We have completed dozens of projects while there are many other projects waiting to be inaugurated. We don't only support development projects; we also focus on humanitarian aid. We're providing humanitarian aid not only to countries in need but also to developed countries as there isn't a crisis-free location left on earth. We were the first foreign responder for the earthquake in Mexico; we received praise from the Mexican president for our contribution. Similarly, TİKA provided aid to Japan during the radiation leak. Developed countries may also be in need albeit small," he stated.

TİKA has 61 program coordination offices in 59 countries on five continents while it is active in 150 countries. Turkey aims to create a belt of peace with friendly and related countries via TİKA and shares its experience with many countries from the Pacific to Central Asia to the Middle East along with Africa, the Balkans, Caucasia and South America.

In accordance with the foreign policy targets of Turkey, TİKA increased its activities in South America from 2006 onward, while establishing 22 offices in Africa since 2005. TİKA responded to the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine region quickly due to President Erdoğan's initiatives.

It is possible to come across various social, economic, administrative and cultural projects such as maternal and infant health, water sanitation, agriculture, animal husbandry, education, tourism, forestry, informatics, vocational education, restoration and protection of cultural heritage, which are all managed by TİKA.

TİKA's head also said that Turkey has always been an advocate for equality among all people, regardless of religion, native language or ethnicity, emphasizing that applying this principle has been the secret to TİKA's success.

In this respect, Çam explained to Daily Sabah the projects TİKA realized in 2018 and aims to realize in 2019 along with the performance of the institution.

Over 4,000 projects realized

Including vocational education, Çam expressed that TİKA has realized approximately 4,250 projects in the field of education. He affirmed that TİKA has built schools in many countries over five continents including but not limited to Afghanistan, Macedonia, Albania, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Palestine, Iraq and Colombia, while restoring hundreds of them.

Sharing Turkey's experience in the fields of education, healthcare, production, administrative and civilian management, and media through support to vocational education centers, Çam stated that TİKA has trained thousands of experts by cooperating with similar institutions, organizations and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

World disregarding Yemen and Myanmar

Çam said, "Turkey is lending a helping hand to the people of these unfortunate regions without any ulterior motive. As President Erdoğan has commented on recently after the G20 summit in Argentina, international organizations and developed countries are disregarding crises in Yemen and Myanmar."

He added that TİKA, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) along with various other NGOs, which are all parts of the foundation civilization, show Turkey's humanitarian and conscientious stance clearly by providing help to the farthest parts of the world.

Increasing number of offices in South America

Talking about TİKA's projects on education, health care and agriculture in South America, Çam stated that the first office aiming to enhance the institution's activities was opened in Mexico in 2014. Another office was opened in Colombia's capital Bogota in 2015.

Turkey has a more active policy toward countries in South America and the Caribbean to improve its relations with the region. The "South America and Caribbean Action Plan" which was implemented in 1998 was updated in 2006; the same year was also announced as "South America and Caribbean Year" in Turkey.

In this context, almost 200 projects and activities especially on education, healthcare, agriculture and infrastructure were realized between the years 2008 and 2018 by TİKA. TİKA's total development assistance to South American countries between the years 2008 and 2018 amounted to $7.5 billion.

Çam expressed that TİKA, which is active in many countries including Guyana, Argentina, Venezuela and Paraguay, continues to build bridges between countries of the region and Turkey through projects aiming to improve female employment, entrepreneurship and to support the peace process in Colombia.

In this respect, with the Experience Sharing Program of 2018, TİKA realized activities including Spanish education, voluntary studies and social and cultural interactions in Colombia for 11 undergraduate students.

Talking about realized projects, Çam said that TİKA provided medical equipment to Doctor Ricardo Gutierrez Children's Hospital's Eye Care and Intensive Care Unit, one of the oldest hospitals located in Argentina's capital Buenos Aires.

Moreover, Çam stated that as a result of President Erdoğan's meeting with Argentina Islamic Center Head Anibal Bakir and his delegation, a school for children's education in Buenos Aires will be built by TİKA.

Accelerating its activities in the region, TİKA renewed the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk Primary School in Chile's capital Santiago. With the joint project developed together with Agencia Presidencial de Cooperacion Internacional de Colombia, TİKA realized the construction of classrooms and libraries along with the procurement of sports equipment and educational materials for 21 town schools in nine provinces of Colombia.

In addition, TİKA provided two boats to El Charco La Tribuna School to facilitate the transportation of 300 students living in the remote parts of the El Charco municipality in Colombia. In the region where transportation is realized through rivers, students aged between seven and 17 were previously using canoes made out of wood to reach their schools.

Accompanying President Erdoğan in his recent visit to Paraguay, first lady Emine Erdoğan delivered ambulances, wheelchairs and incubators provided by TİKA to Paraguay's Ministry of Health. The ambulances will be used in the region where 600 families suffered from floods.

Providing support to agriculture and livestock farming, TİKA provided cold storage and vacuum packaging equipment to the Guyana School of Agriculture and Presidential College. In addition, Çam asserted that equipment which will improve production capacity will be procured for Agricultural Services' Sugar Cane Cooperative located in Cundinamarca province of Colombia.

TİKA had provided technical equipment to cocoa, rubber and coffee producers along with women producing essence in Colombia's Caqueta province in order to consolidate agricultural development in 2017.

Underscoring the impossibility of achieving economic development without a healthy populace, Çam expressed that TİKA provides medical equipment to various hospitals in Colombia, Peru and Brazil while providing ambulance support to Suriname, Bolivia and Guyana.

Decreasing maternal and infant mortality rates

Çam affirmed that basic needs such as education and healthcare should be prioritized and signified that TİKA will realize new projects in this field in 2019 while improving the existing ones.

"Maternal and infant health is our priority. Turkey is continuing to provide education on midwife training and minimizing infant mortality. We will continue on our projects aiming to procure missing medical equipment and materials," he said.

'We will do whatever we can in Yemen'

Touching upon the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, Çam asserted that Turkey will increase its humanitarian aid to Yemen.

Çam continued, "Despite security risks, we haven't closed down our office in Yemen. Currently, our Sana'a office is functioning with its local personnel; however, its capacity is limited. We've opened a second office in Aden. Our coordinator is working on it. We're trying to maintain our ancestral tradition by providing the local populace with food and water. We're also working on preventing cholera and collecting garbage. Meanwhile, it's not possible for another country to completely resolve the crisis in a country; only the country could save itself. We'll increase our activities in Yemen. We're not the wealthiest country on Earth but President Erdoğan is the most generous leader. For this reason, we'll have new initiatives and activities in Yemen with the special support of our government."

Gaza Hospital Project completed

In this respect, Çam stated that the construction of the hospital in Gaza which is a subsidiary of Islamic University of Gaza. He specified that this was not the first hospital built by Turkey in Palestine, while signifying that Turkey and TİKA has made large healthcare investments in the region.

"We're experiencing certain hardships in terms of logistics with our Ramallah office and Gaza. Our office is trying to contribute to many projects in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Even during the most problematic periods, we try to communicate and cooperate with both Israel and Palestine through our embassies. Therefore, Israel's Foreign Ministry is trying to provide certain facilities to us; of course, we experience certain issues at the border. To minimize the human tragedy there, we have to have healthy relations," he commented.

Indirectly fighting terrorism

Asserting that TİKA's indirect contribution to counterterrorism activities, Çam gave Somali as an example of how the institution both mends the wounds caused by terror and prevents the spread of terror.

"For instance, when you look at Somali, it's no longer a failed state; a new structure that can maintain and sustain itself is there. Turkey is the chief contributor in this matter. Approximately $1 billion was invested. Economic activities were jump-started. Turkey didn't seek interest while providing help to the country. Seeing dying children because of famine, President Erdoğan went there on August 2011 and started the process. Today, we can say children no longer die because of famine in Somali. The possibility of famine was eliminated with sufficient fish farms and livestock. Even though we may not see it today, following generations might say 'Turks have invested here.' The important thing is that we have done it," he said.

Turkey sought for humanitarian aid

Even though the main objective of the institution isn't providing emergency needs, TİKA had transported emergency need packages to the victims of the earthquake in Mexico in 2017 with its dynamic structure. Regarding this topic, Çam stated that TİKA was the first foreign institution to provide help to Mexico and that the Mexican president had thanked Turkey for the swift response.

Reminding that Turkey is a country that provided the most humanitarian aid according to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2018, Çam signified that Turkey is lending a helping hand to many people in need especially in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Rakhine, Afghanistan and Somalia along with various other regions. He added that Turkey is seen by other countries as a swift responder.

Explaining that Turkey has increased its humanitarian aid by 25 percent 2017 when compared to the previous year and reaching $8.1 billion in according to OECD data, Çam asserted that Turkey is the sixth country in the development assistance rankings.

Hot meals for the Rohingya everyday

"When Rohingya people started to leave Myanmar, we provided them the first hot meal with our kitchen there. Currently TİKA is providing hot meals for 25,000 people there. We have established kitchens and distributed hot meals. We've responded quickly. We are the first institution that helped the Rohingya, both in and out of Myanmar, with the instructions and support of President Erdoğan," Çam said.

Support to Palestinians in Chile and Muslim natives in Mexico

As the third and fourth generations of families who have migrated to Chile from the Arabic regions in early 1900s and are mostly Palestinians, continue to live in Chile, TİKA is working on projects aiming for the betterment of Palestinians in Chile. In this respect, besides the retirement home project, TİKA built two grass football fields for the Deportivo Palestino Football Club, which is founded by Chileans of Palestinian descent.

Closely tending to the Muslim Natives of Mexico, whose numbers are increasing by the day, TİKA provides help to Mexican natives who have economic and transportation issues.

With the livestock, sewing machines and cloth sent to the region via TİKA, Turkey is increasing women's contribution to the economy. Moreover, TİKA is providing Ramadan packages to the natives during the holy month of Ramadan. Organizing iftars during Ramadan, TİKA distributes Ramadan packages consisting of food to impoverished natives.

Stating that Turkey will continue to lend a helping hand to different regions within its power, Çam expressed that Turkey might focus on certain regions of the world due to demands, needs and policies but will help all regardless.

Bicycles for girls in Kenya

Continuing to provide support to girls, TİKA changed the lives of girls living in the remote villages located in Western Kenya who have to walk for kilometers to reach their school by giving them 200 bicycles.

"You have to prioritize where the need for help is the direst. In this respect, it's not possible to contribute to an already perfect place," said Çam.

On the other hand, Çam talked about TİKA's activities in Hungary, an EU member with a good infrastructure. Touching upon restoration efforts to maintain Budapest's historical monuments, like Gül Baba's Tomb which was recently concluded, Çam expressed that the restoration of various monuments in Szigetvár, one of the most important cities in Hungary, is being closely followed by TİKA.

Asserting that cultural interactions are achieved via realized projects, Çam gave the example of Mauritania and extracted how the people were provided with vocational education especially in terms of tourism.

"Turkish instructors taught almost all Turkish desserts to the students there. Some 500 students now have a vocation. The training of Turkish hotel service was provided within only two months. We want to provide this kind of training and to create opportunities for entrepreneurs," he said.

Construction of a cultural center for Tatars in Kiev

Çam also noted that a cultural center consisting of a library, mosque and restaurant will be constructed for Crimean Tatars in Kiev in 2019 and that they will be able to find each other there and keep their values alive.

Projects in third countries through cooperation

Moreover, Çam stated that Turkey conducts projects together with institutions of other countries in third countries. He gave the Healthcare Week program in Kenya – jointly organized by Turkish and Hungarian doctors via TİKA – also cooperation was renewed between TİKA and South Korea's assistance agency KOICA during President Erdoğan's official visit to the country and they are transporting aid packages provided by Kazakhstan to the Rohingya people in Bangladesh.

Shelter for Kangal puppies in Namibia

TİKA provided Sivas Kangal puppies to the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia in order to prevent farmers from killing cheetahs attacking their livestock. Brought from Anatolia, Kangals are trained and given to farmers who possess livestock. This prevents cheetahs from attacking the livestock and allows for the conservation of endangered cheetahs.

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