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Turkish Red Crescent’s low blood supply leads to postponement of crucial surgeries

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Up to 30 percent of heart surgeries are being postponed due to a recent decrease in the blood supply of the Turkish Red Crescent (Kızılay), Turkey’s top charity organization, which has come under criticism after major earthquakes in February, NTV reported on Wednesday.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the city of Gaziantep on Feb. 6 while people were sleeping, killing more than 50,000 people in the 11 southeastern provinces hardest hit by the disaster, according to the latest official figures. The quake was followed by many aftershocks, including a 7.5- magnitude temblor that shook the region later the same day.

Following the quakes, the Kızılay humanitarian group was widely criticized by Turkish opposition figures and media for selling rather than donating tents for those made homeless by the massive disaster.

Cumhuriyet daily columnist Murat Ağırel revealed in late February that Kızılay had sold 2,050 tents to the Foundation of Anatolian People and Peace Platform (AHBAP), Turkish rock star Haluk Levent’s relief organization, three days after the earthquakes left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. Kızılay sold the tents for 46 million Turkish lira ($2.4 million), rather than donating them.

The revelation led to the emergence of other claims of similar sales in the past, including the sale of second-hand items donated to the charity, fueling debate especially on social media as to whether Kızılay was a relief organization or a for-profit company.

Following harsh criticism from politicians, celebrities and social media users, Kızılay saw a substantial decrease in blood donations.

Although the charity announced that its blood supply had fallen below the minimum level and issued a call for donations, with similar calls coming from politicians, the expected amount of donations has not yet been reached.

Speaking to NTV on Wednesday, Prof. Dr. Kürşat Bozkurt, president of the Turkish Society of Cardiovascular Surgery, said that up to 30 percent of heart surgeries in Turkey had to be postponed due to Kızılay’s shortage of blood.

“We are in a critical situation. We have reached a point where we are unable to perform certain surgeries. … A minimum of four units of blood are used in open heart surgery. If we don’t have enough blood beforehand, we can’t perform the surgery,” Bozkurt said.

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