Turkey's efforts in support of the transformation of a convention center in Bogota into a temporary hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic came at one of the most critical moments in Colombia's fight against COVID-19.
Despite difficulties at home, Turkey continues to cooperate with countries that need its help. The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) donated 250 hospital beds for a transitional hospital established by the Mayor's Office of Bogota in the main hall of the Corferias exhibition grounds.
Angela Ospina de Nicholls, director for the Colombian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation, recognized Turkey's efforts at a time when donors are having difficulty helping other nations because of the crises they are experiencing in their own countries.
"The response of international cooperation has been at this time framed in the problems of the great traditional aid donors, who are facing very difficult situations. That is why cooperation such as this from Turkey and TİKA is valued. Despite the difficulties, they showed solidarity in responding to Colombia's needs," Ospina told Anadolu Agency (AA).
She said the donation was obtained following a request made by the Mayor's Office of Bogota to the Turkish embassy.
"TİKA came in to donate what they had been asked for, which was 250 beds out of the 800 in Corferias – a very significant number," she said.
Corferias will also treat people with medical emergencies other than COVID-19 infections to ensure the city's medical response without putting patients who need other types of care at risk of infection.
Turkey's donation to Corferias, which seeks to reduce the risk of infection, is key in the midst of the pandemic, Ospina said.
"It required what is technically called a hospital extension, and this is what the Mayor's Office of Bogota did in Corferias," she said.
According to Ospina, the official development aid amid the pandemic will not be framed within traditional guidelines such as those established in the framework of south-south cooperation but will be more horizontal and based on the principle of solidarity.
Turkey's Ambassador to Colombia Ece Öztürk Çil agreed with Ospina that solidarity was the motivation for her country to help with some fundamental elements so that Corferias could begin to operate as a proper hospital.
"I am very happy to have been able to show Turkey's solidarity with Colombia in these difficult times. It is timely assistance for Colombia, and we wish that all the patients who receive medical help using those beds will recover," she told AA.
"The fact that this hospital is ready is something that will give people confidence. I am happy that Turkey can help strengthen that feeling among the population," she said.
Mehmed Sülkü, TİKA's director in Colombia, explained that in addition to the donation for Corferias, Turkey will also deliver 500 emergency food supply kits and 500 prevention kits to members of the Colombian Army's Integral Action and Development Support Command, who are carrying out community tasks in the department of Cundinamarca amid the pandemic. The aid includes protective masks with N95 filters, antibacterial gel and medical gloves.
Sülkü explained that TİKA is also participating along with the Entrepreneurship Center of Casanare department's Chamber of Commerce and other local entities in the development of masks for the frontline hospital care team in that department in the east of the country.
"Turkey has been characterized as a country with a friendly culture and at the service of the people, and during these times, it has not been the exception. The management of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency has marked the representation of the Turkish government at the international level," said Sülkü.
Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez thanked Turkey for the help, which she referred to as one of the most significant developments for this venue, which will go from hosting international events such as the traditional International Book Fair and Agroexpo international agriculture and livestock exhibition to receiving patients who need priority medical care.
"Turkey was perhaps our biggest donor for hospital beds in Corferias. We are very grateful," said the mayor at the hospital's launch on Monday.
Bogota is the city most affected by the coronavirus in Colombia, with at least 79 deaths and 1,682 patients infected, according to the National Health Institute. The country has recorded at least 189 deaths and 3,977 people infected with COVID-19.
Turkey's support for other South American countries
Sülkü stressed that "another example of Turkey's helping hand has been its approaches to public entities in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil."
"The approaches with the Peruvian Agency for International Cooperation (APCI) provided assistance to the regional government of Tumbes, which consists of providing biomedical equipment to the Regional Hospital of Tumbes, which is in a state of coordination and development," he said.
"Likewise, through the Technical Secretariat of Ecuador's Lifelong Plan and the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), we have made approaches to help fight the coronavirus in the country and examine the implementation of possible projects," Sülkü told AA.
Turkish cooperation for several countries in the region did not come about because of the coronavirus but has been going on for some time and will continue after the pandemic, he noted.
According to Sülkü, one of TİKA's philosophies is "that its helping hand reaches all regions, its fight against hunger continues."
"Currently, we have been able to reach out to Islamic centers in Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Colombia (Maicao) and Peru in order to extend aid not only because of their current conditions but also because of the situation that has characterized this region, which is why TİKA is currently analyzing and evaluating the possibility of donating food, hygiene items and personal protection kits in these regions, aid that would be in line with the beginning of Ramadan, a time of fraternity and solidarity," the director said.