By Nilay Kar Onum
ISTANBUL (AA) – Turkey's Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) has been lending a helping hand to thousands of orphaned children across the world, said an official from the foundation.
“We’ve been providing support to 95,000 orphans in 53 countries regularly. We are trying to prepare them for life, thanks to the support of our donors,” said Resat Baser, head of IHH’s Orphan Care Department, speaking exclusively to Anadolu Agency in Istanbul.
“We are particularly focusing on the education of the children. In crisis regions, education of children and their development are very important for us,” Baser said.
His remarks came as Turkey marks National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, which is observed every year on April 23.
“One of the countries we focus on is Palestine. As of today, we are regularly supporting more than 16,000 orphans there,” he said.
Most of the aid in Palestine is going to orphaned children in Gaza through IHH’s team in the blockaded city and banks, Baser said.
According to official estimates, 80% of Gaza City’s inhabitants depend on foreign assistance to survive. Some 40%, meanwhile, currently live below the poverty line.
Since 2006, the Gaza Strip has suffered under a crippling Israeli blockade that has gutted the territory’s economy and deprived its 2 million inhabitants of many staple commodities.
The IHH has also been providing support to more than 10,000 orphaned children in Syria, Baser said.
“The majority of the children we are giving support to in Syria are living in the region where [Turkey’s] Operation Euphrates Shield was launched and in Afrin,” where its Operation Olive Branch was conducted, he said.
The IHH has been carrying out aid projects in war-torn Syria since the country’s devastating conflict began in 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.
Since Afrin’s liberation in March 2018 through Operation Olive Branch, the aid agency has also distributed hot meals to an estimated one million Syrians.
- IHH helps 6,000 children in Yemen
Another country that IHH focuses on is Yemen.
“We have over 6,000 orphaned children in Yemen that we give support to,” Baser said.
“Delivering daily needs such as food aid and hygiene supplies is very important in Yemen. We also attach importance to the education of mothers there and delivering stationery supplies to children. We've been regularly delivering such aid there,” he added.
“We also have 1,000 children in Moro in the Philippines that we’re providing support to.
“Moro is very important in terms of the role that both Turkey and IHH played in the peace process. It is a place that we should give support to, in order not to lose the gains there," Baser said.
The aid agency will launch the 9th Orphans Solidarity Day this year.
“As part of this, we will realize 607 projects in 33 countries in order to provide support to both orphaned children and their families,” Baser said.
“Our main goal with this project is to improve the lives of the mothers of the children and to provide employment to them,” he said.
- Children grateful for support
In a video message sent to Anadolu Agency, 10-year-old Nura Halife from Syria thanked the Turkish government and IHH for their support.
"I hope we will return to our homes in a safe way," she said.
"I want peace for all the people and children across the world."
Sending a written message to Anadolu Agency, 13-year-old Vera Marvinda from Indonesia’s Aceh province said: “IHH has changed a lot of things in my life. It helped me study and learn my religion.”
“When I hear the name IHH, I become happy and would like to visit there,” Marvinda said.
There are an estimated 400 million orphans around the world.
IHH operates 36 orphanages in 13 countries, according to the agency’s website.
The aid agency is supporting orphaned children through the Orphan Sponsorship System.
Anyone who wishes to sponsor an orphan child can visit www.ihh.org.tr and send $30 monthly for their education, health, food, clothing and housing.