Every year, Turkish nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) mobilize to boost humanitarian aid to disadvantaged communities around the world on the occasion of Ramadan. As charitable acts are a staple during the Islamic month of fasting, they have turned their attention to the plight of displaced people of Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of people have left the country already, fleeing into nearby European countries, as well as into Turkey. But the dire need for aid prevails for those unable or unwilling to leave.
Charities based in Turkey reach out to other countries during Ramadan, which will begin in April this year, with humanitarian aid packages and iftar meals (a meal fasting Muslims eat to end their fast) for needy Muslims.
They are already in the field delivering aid to Ukraine but their activities will increase during Ramadan, when they will deliver meals, blankets, clothes and other aid.
Kemal Özdal, head of Sadakataşı Association, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Thursday that they would be active in 34 countries this year and their aid would focus on people living in conflict zones and disaster-hit areas. The association usually delivers aid to the Middle East, Asia and Africa but they have included Ukraine in their campaign this year. “We see people increasingly leaving the country through the Polish and Romanian borders. We sent our crews on the fourth day of the war to check their emergency needs. During Ramadan, we will deliver aid for refugees in Romania, Poland, Hungary, as well as those internally displaced in Ukraine,” he said. Özdal said both public agencies and NGOs acted fast in response to the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH), another Turkish charity, has been at the forefront of aid, especially for Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, for years. IHH deputy director Emre Kaya says they are working to deliver aid in European countries where the refugees took shelter. He said they were handing food and blankets to the displaced in Ukraine as well. “We made arrangements for aid to Ukraine this Ramadan. We will set up iftar dinners and give away food packages,” he said. Kaya said there was a large wave of refugees from Ukraine and it would be a “new experience” for them to reach out to people in Europe after years of work in other countries.
Recently, Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay) had sent truckloads of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and set up mobile kitchens for locals. Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency (AFAD) announced last week that 23 trucks carrying humanitarian assistance sent by Turkey had arrived in Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. In a statement, the agency said the aid includes 3,536 food parcels, 510 family tents, 26 general-purpose tents, 930 beds, 680 pillow sheet sets and 4,416 blankets.
Aid agencies continue to ramp up their efforts to bring much-needed relief supplies to civilians affected by the fighting in Ukraine, and also to over 3 million refugees who have fled the country since the conflict began. Rzeszow, the largest city in southeastern Poland, roughly 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Ukrainian border, has become a humanitarian aid hub for the region. By road and by air, aid supplies – including food, blankets, solar lamps, warm clothing, mattresses, jerrycans and plastic sheeting – continue to arrive in a massive warehouse run by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), next to the airport outside Rzeszow.
"What we have been doing is bringing more people into the country, bringing more assistance into the country, working with partners to make sure that we can work effectively, to do what we can to help,” said Matthew Saltmarsh, UNHCR spokesperson. Saltmarsh said the agency has received “over 300 million zloty of donations” from the private sector in the past month and has managed to deliver some of the relief supplies to Ukraine. So far, the UNCHR has moved 22 trucks and soon plans to move another 10 with emergency supplies to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, not far from the Polish border. Lviv has largely been spared the scale of destruction unfolding further east, becoming the first destination for many of those fleeing the country.
Some of the aid transported to the city has been unloaded and distributed there, Saltmarsh said, but the rest is waiting to go on when the security situation allows humanitarian assistance to reach the hardest-hit parts of the country, including the port city of Mariupol, which has been besieged and subjected to punitive Russian attacks almost since the start of the war. "That is obviously very worrying and a big challenge for the humanitarian community,” he told The Associated Press (AP).
Efforts are also being stepped up to assist the refugees, about half of them children, who have escaped over the past weeks to Poland and other countries bordering Ukraine. Refugees now arriving in neighboring countries are "more vulnerable, in a more traumatic state” than those who came in the early days of the war, Saltmarsh said.
Kateryna Horiachko, who escaped from the area around the capital, Kyiv, said people there were "devastated." "They lost their homes, they lost everything they had, they lost relatives ... there is nothing left for (us) than (to) become refugees,” added Horiachko, who arrived in Suceava, Romania, on Thursday. Horiachko said her husband and parents remain in Ukraine and that she was hoping to find a way to support them. "The economy in Ukraine is also ruined, people (are) now without work, without income and they need support," she added./Daily Sabah