Turkey’s streak as most generous country in the world continues

Turkey is once again the world’s top donor in global humanitarian assistance according to a new report that shows the country spent $8.4 billion last year alone

Turkey became the most-spending country in the world in global humanitarian assistance for two years in a row in 2017 and 2018, an independent international development organization announced.

The country spent $8.4 billion in humanitarian assistance in 2018, while its aid expenses were $8.1 billion in 2017, according to the Development Initiative’s (DI) Global Humanitarian Assistance Report, released yesterday.

In 2018, some 29% of all international humanitarian aid, $28.9 billion, came from Turkey, the report showed. Assistance provided by other countries dropped on an annual basis in 2018, including the U.S. (from $6.68 billion to $6.65 billion), Germany (from $2.98 billion to $2.96 billion) and the U.K. (from $2.52 billion to $2.19 billion).

Turkey’s humanitarian aid expenditures were nearly 1.1% of its GDP in 2018, up from 1% in 2017. The U.S. provided 0.032% of its GDP, Germany 0.074% and the U.K. 0.077%. Turkey had been ranked third in the DI report in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and second in 2016.

It also hosts the highest number of refugees, 4 million, in the world, according to official figures. The number of Syrian refugees living in the country was 3.66 million as of September.

Though it is struggling for economic growth while trying to join the league of developed countries after recovering from years of economic mismanagement, Turkey is determined to earmark more for humanitarian aid. Under Justice and Development Party (AK Party) governments, humanitarian assistance efforts gained momentum and the country’s aid agencies rose to prominence for aid in disasters and assistance to refugees. The country’s efforts allowed it to host the World Humanitarian Summit, a first-of-its-kind summit by the U.N. to coordinate humanitarian efforts.

State-run Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) leads Turkey’s global outreach in humanitarian aid. TİKA oversees projects from the Middle East to Latin America, from the construction of hospitals to vocational training for disadvantaged communities among other means of development aid.

The Turkish Red Crescent also raised its profile in the international community with its increasing presence in humanitarian aid efforts. The charity is involved in aid efforts from setting up refugee camps to delivering food packages in conflict zones and disaster-hit regions across the globe. Red Crescent delivered humanitarian aid to 23 million people in 2018 around the world.

Globally, 1.8 billion people live in poverty, and 697 million of them face extreme poverty as of last year, down from 2 billion and 753 million in 2017, respectively, the report highlighted. “People living in poverty are defined as living on less than $3.20 a day; people living in extreme poverty are defined as living on less than $1.90 a day,” the report said.

It stressed that in 2018, humanitarian aid totaled $28.9 billion, while it was $28.6 billion in 2017, $26.5 billion in 2016, $25.2 billion in 2015 and $22.2 billion in 2014. Some $22.6 billion of humanitarian assistance were provided by governments and EU institutions while the rest of the amount was given by private donors. Private donors included individuals, trusts, foundations, companies and national societies. The report noted that the most humanitarian aid went to Syria ($2.35 billion), Yemen ($1.9 billion), South Sudan ($1.37 billion), Iraq ($1.25 billion) and Somalia ($1.01 billion). Syria was the single largest recipient of humanitarian assistance for the sixth consecutive year. Ankara often warns the international community and regional countries that aggravating conflict in Syria can renew a refugee wave toward the West as displaced Syrians have few options but to take shelter in Turkey.

Turkey has spent nearly $40 billion so far for the welfare of refugees, while it has only received about 6 billion euros ($6.6 billion) of support from the international community. Turkey has long criticized European countries and the international community for their lack of support on the issue of refugees.

Multilateral organizations transported $14.7 billion aid, while $9.7 billion aid went through non-governmental organizations and $2.2 billion through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movements. The report said: “In 2018, 206.4 million people were estimated to be in need.” “Ongoing conflicts in Syria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to cause untold suffering and contributed to the record numbers of people who were forced from their homes,” the report added.

DI is an independent international development organization that focuses on the role of data in driving poverty eradication and sustainable development.