The Turkish Red Crescent is in "a golden age" in terms of going international, Kerem Kınık, head of the prominent charity, said on Friday at a press conference in Istanbul where he outlined the charity's 2019 plans.
Kınık said the Red Crescent touched the lives of some 40 million people in 2018 and delivered humanitarian aid worth more than TL 3.1 billion ($573 million).
The charity marked its 150th year in 2018 and has significantly grown in recent years with more focus on international aid.
"We are in a golden age for internationalization of the Red Crescent. We gave our nation's helping hand to people in many places across the world. Turkey itself is the top humanitarian donor in the world and also hosts the largest refugee community, offering them protection," he said, referring to the large Syrian refugee population in the country, adding that the Red Crescent has been at the forefront of Turkey's important humanitarian activities.
Though its humanitarian aid is widespread, the Red Crescent is primarily known in Turkey for its blood drives. Kınık said more than 1.9 million people donated about 2.5 million units of blood last year, and they reached out to 3.8 million patients in need of blood transfusions. "We aim to collect at least 2.7 million units of blood in 2019 and encourage more women to donate blood," he said, pointing out that women make up only 15 percent of blood donors.
The Red Crescent increased the number of people it delivered humanitarian aid to from 18.6 million in 2017 to 23.2 million in 2018. "We aim to raise it to more than 32 million this year, with a humanitarian aid budget of about TL 4.5 billion," Kınık said.
The charity delivered aid worth about TL 500 billion in 2018 to 7.7 million people in 45 countries last year.
Kınık said they were also working to increase the accommodation capacity and food they provide to the needy, noting that the Red Crescent was already providing accommodation in tents in about 30 camps for the displaced in Syria, Turkey's southern neighbor, which has been devastated by an ongoing conflict. The Red Crescent president said they also mobilized for the possibility of a military operation against terrorists in Syria, a plan currently put on hold by the Turkish presidency.