President Abdullah Gül on Wednesday called on members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to show more solidarity with and increase humanitarian aid to drought-stricken Somalia.
Gül was speaking at the OIC Economic and Commercial Cooperation Permanent Committee (İSEDAK) meeting in İstanbul. “I call on you to lend your helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Africa,” he told the participating representatives of the OIC member countries.
Underlining that the famine has hit Muslim countries relatively harder than other parts of the world, Gül said the Turkish state and NGOs had earlier launched separate aid campaigns to help Africans hit by the latest wave of drought and famine, noting that the country had raised a total of $350 million as part of these campaigns so far. Gül said he hoped that the suffering in African countries could be reduced with assistance by the Islamic world and contributions from other states. “Turkey is committed to continue working for a solution of problems in the least developed countries,” he added.
Recalling that the representatives of OIC member countries and their financial institutions, along with relief groups, met recently to discuss the next phase of aid campaigns to Africa, Gül said that “the word should take action before things get even worse in the region.”
“The Prophet Muhammad says: ‘One who sleeps with a full stomach while his or her neighbor goes to bed feeling hungry is not one of us.' … We should lend an ear to his warning and do what is required of us,” Gül said, ending his speech.
Turkish aid associations as well as the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) have been carrying out aid campaigns for Africa. The state-run Directorate of Disaster and Emergency Management (AFAD) has also been active in directing donations to the region.
Turkey in August called on the OIC to convene an urgent meeting regarding the famine and drought that has been sweeping through Africa. UN reports showed that Somalia was suffering its worst drought in 60 years while 187 out of every 1,000 Somali children die by the age of 5. Kenya and Ethiopia are also hit by the same trouble. Famine conditions are likely to persist until December, the Food and Agriculture Organization said. Across Somalia, 3.7 million people out of a population of 7.5 million are in need, the UN said. The UN also wrote that 3.2 million are in need of immediate, lifesaving assistance.
Security problems make things even more unbearable in the region. Sporadic fighting between the Somali army and rebels in the country has prevented thousands of tons of food sent by the UN from reaching millions of starving people as more than 1 million Somalis had to seek refuge in camps in Kenya.
Also addressing the participants, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu said the total trade volume between the OIC members increased to $539 billion last year from $205 billion in 2005. “Also, the total gross domestic product [GDP] volume in OIC countries reached $8 trillion in 2010, a clear sign of economic activity in the organization. … Twenty-three of our members are among the world's largest agricultural producers … the countries should cooperate to make the most of their potential,” he said.