Turkey issues rallying cry for flood-hit Pakistan
Turkish state bodies and private aid groups alike are working to organize aid for flood-ravaged Pakistan and seeking public help. "A large-scale campaign will be launched next week, and we will contribute to the reconstruction of Pakistan with the money we raise," Tekin Kucukali, head of the Turkish Red Crescent, said yesterday. Turkey has pledged $10 million in cash and humanitarian aid worth $1 million to Pakistan. Organizers expect the call for aid to be heeded because the two countries enjoy a unique relationship. A Red Crescent team is already in Pakistan to help distribute aid and report back to Ankara on the country's immediate needs. In addition, the Prime Ministry is also already involved in coordinating help for Pakistan. "The two countries' people love each other unconditionally," said Kucukali. "That's why the Turkish people wholeheartedly participate in aid campaigns for Pakistan." A fourth plane full of humanitarian aid was sent to Pakistan on Tuesday, he said, adding that they are calling on municipalities and trade chambers to contribute to the efforts. "We're planning to send 2,000 prefabricated houses to Pakistan next week," he explained. "They can last 10 years." Torrential rain triggered the catastrophic floods that have affected 20 million people in three weeks, wiping out villages, farmland, and infrastructure and killing at least 1,500 people. The United Nations last week launched an appeal for $460 million, but so far has raised just 40 percent of the target. Aid agencies are now calling for pledges to be turned into cash. Education Minister Nimet Cubukcu told reporters that a campaign could be organized in schools when they open next month. "We can't be indifferent to the disaster in Pakistan. We'll do whatever is necessary," she said during a meeting with Tariq Azizuddin, Pakistan's ambassador to Turkey. A number of Turkish businessmen have also started aid campaigns. "The disaster in Pakistan has saddened me greatly," said hotel mogul Fettah Tamince. "We're preparing a plane that will carry food, medicine and generators to Pakistan." Tamince said he had called about two dozen other businessmen to coordinate aid for Pakistan. "We can increase our humanitarian assistance to the country," he added. Rizanur Meral, head of the Turkish Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists (TUSKON), said around 3,000 of the group's members have already pledged to help. "From the very beginning, we have guided our members to the region," he said. "It's very important that more aid is sent. Pakistan is a very important country." Cihad Vardar, head of the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen's Association (MUSIAD), said the group is helping Pakistan through their representation there. "Our growing trade relations with Pakistan push us to extend more aid," he added.