One of the oldest humanitarian organizations in the world, the Turkish Red Crescent, celebrated its 146th anniversary last week. However, the foundation, with its roots in the Ottoman empire, has revealed major plans to create a nationwide database of bone-marrow donors to help Turks get treatment at home.

The Crescent – well-known to generations of Turks through its ubiquitous city-center blood-donation tents – is also aiming to supply Turkey’s whole blood stock - over 2 million units – by the end of 2015.

Serving as the nation's humanitarian relief organization since 1868 as 'Turk Kizilayi', the Turkish Red Crescent has made its name in blood donation, disaster management, first-aid training and helping people in war zones, such as in Syria.

Domestically, the organization is known more for blood donation; about 1.5 million units of blood were collected in 2013 – a 12 percent increase on 2012. Izmir and Istanbul have topped the list of city donations.

"This year, we hopefully will gather 1.9 million units of blood and increase it to 2.1 million at the end of 2015. So, the Turkish Red Crescent will have provided the whole blood need of Turkey," chairman of the organization, Ahmet Lutfi Akar told Anadolu Agency during a 146th anniversary festival in central Istanbul last Wednesday. 

The foundation has lined up a number of key projects with the Turkish Health Ministry this year, including a plan to register a quarter-million bone-marrow volunteers by 2020.

There are more than 60 bone-marrow transplant centers in Turkey and each year about 3,000 patients are added to the list to receive stem-cell transplantation treatment.

"At the end of 2013, the number of patients waiting for a bone marrow transplant was 835," Turkey's Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu told the Turkish Red Crescent. "We signed a protocol in November last year to create volunteer donor centers as part of Turkish Red Crescent. So, we expect 250,000 volunteers to donate within five years," he added.

Volunteers of the ‘TURKOK’ project, to be launched in August this year by the Turkish Health Ministry and Turkish Red Crescent, will donate stem-cell material for patients receiving bone-marrow treatment.    

It is hoped that patients will no longer need to go abroad for treatment as a Turkish database would increase their chances of receiving a compatible bone-marrow transplant.  

The foundation has also signed a protocol to produce blood plasma fractionation – a general process of separating various components of blood plasma, leading to the production of medication, Akar added. 

A 22-year-old Turkish Red Crescent volunteer and deputy head of its Youth Department in Istanbul, Osman Tomakin told AA that the foundation had branches in 35 universities across Turkey.

"We don't want the Turkish Red Crescent be known only for its blood donation. It has a lot of ongoing other events, to which we want to attract young people and encourage them to become volunteers," he said. 

Since its foundation, the organization has provided many kinds of humanitarian relief in Turkey and abroad. 

The organization distributed 35 tons of food along with cleaning and building materials in Bosnia-Herzegovina in mid-May where at least 60 people died in the Balkans' worst floods in 120 years.  

“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver,” said Mahatma Gandhi. He spoke the truth but it is much better to help with gold, silver and 'blood' those, who like the Turkish Red Crescent, are working to secure the health and security of people at home and abroad.