Turkey: The Model Citizen in COVID-19 Humanitarian Response

By Abdul Abbas, THO Academic Liaison for the University of Calgary

When it comes to humanitarian aid, Turkey has led the way in the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Turkey has been a model global citizen, as it has sent aid and medical supplies to 55 countries across the world (ABC News), including the United States of America. 

Just last week, a plane landing in America from Ankara was carrying PPE (personal protective equipment), masks, goggles, hazmat suits, disinfectants, and much more. What is more impressive is that this cargo was the second plane full of medical supplies from Turkey to land in USA, as Turkey is prioritizing countries that have been hit hard by the pandemic and countries where supply chains have been exhausted, and America is both of those things. 

As the availability of test kits dwindled in the U.S, they humbly asked their NATO ally, Turkey, for kits they may be able to spare. Half a million COVID-19 test kits were thereby sent to America. As Turkey’s deputy foreign minister, Selim Yavuz Kiran, said in a tweet after the shipment was sent, “We stand fully with our strategic partner”, displaying that in times of crisis, turmoil between nations takes a back seat.

Moving to the topic of the Middle East, Turkey has always supported the Palestinian people and their humanitarian needs during their past 7 decades of tribulation, and their response to this pandemic is no different. Given the complications created by Israeli restrictions and the potential blocking of the aid reaching Palestinians, Turkey confirmed with Israel that all and any aid will reach the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank without delay (Bloomberg). Also, to note, Israel who is not currently an ally to Turkey, was given approval to purchase Turkish medical material.

Southern European nations like Italy and Spain have been some of the most harshly effected countries by COVID-19 in the world, and that was not lost on Turkish officials. With international scarcity of ventilators, $3.3 million dollars’ worth of them were sold to the Spanish government. A Turkish cargo plane handling Turkish-made PPE and other such basic protective material landed in Italy for the suffering population of Italy to use. 

One of the more high-profile nations at the center of this pandemic, Iran, has also been a recipient of Turkey’s humanitarian aid regardless of tensions between the two nations and regardless of the fact that Iran’s mishandling of the outbreak posed a threat to its neighboring countries, like Turkey.  

Finally, the struggling nation in the Horn of Africa, Somalia, was sent ventilators as a “breath of life for our Somalia brothers” as stated by President Erdogan on Twitter. 

Above is a recap of the Turkish aid received by 8 countries, by that count, there is still 48 countries that haven’t been discussed. International powerhouses like the U.K and Pakistan have also been on the receiving end of Turkish aid. 

The contents of these shipments may vary, but there has been one common thing amongst all of these international aid shipments from Turkey. All of the boxes were inscribed with a quote from the 13th-century poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, which goes “After hopelessness there is so much hope and after darkness there is a much brighter sun.”

That is the sentiment we as an international community need to move forward with.