SINGAPORE: Secondhand goods donated by people in Singapore for the victims of last month’s deadly Türkiye-Syria earthquake were either disposed of or handed over to a non-governmental organisation (NGO) due to hygiene reasons, CNA has learnt.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, which claimed more than 50,000 lives, led to an outpouring of support from people in Singapore who flooded donation centres as well as the Turkish embassy in Singapore with items such as winter clothing and diapers.

Turkish Ambassador to Singapore Mehmet Burçin Gönenli told CNA on Tuesday (Mar 7) that Türkiye only accepted new or unused clothing due to sanitary reasons.

Because of this, the embassy “got in touch with some NGOs” in order to “establish cooperation with them with the intention of sending secondhand clothing to people in need”, he said.

Mr Gönenli added: “We did not discard (the donations) and we didn’t want to throw them away, but we wanted to put them to good use, so my team at the embassy enquired what we could do with them.

“The NGOs are recycling them and distributing them to various countries in this region which needed them, but I don’t know specifically where.”

Mr Gönenli added that the embassy sent some secondhand clothing donations to Global Ehsan Relief, a humanitarian aid group based in Malaysia with branches in other countries such as Singapore, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

As of Mar 10, the NGO did not respond to CNA’s queries on what it did with the donations.

Another company that the Turkish embassy got help from was homegrown recycler Tay Paper Recycling. Its general manager Daryl Chew said that it “disposed of unwanted clothing” amounting to an estimated 16 tonnes (16,000 kg).

When asked to elaborate on how the firm disposed of the clothing, Mr Chew responded that what he had said was “to my knowledge”.

CNA approached a handful of other NGOs to ask in general what they did with unwanted or unusable in-kind donations, such as clothing.

The Singapore Red Cross said it has “built a network of donor-partners that provides a steady stream of brand new or pre-loved clothes”.

Its spokesperson added that the clothing will be sold at its thrift store, SHOP+, and all proceeds will be used to support Singapore Red Cross’ local humanitarian services. It does not accept in-kind donations for disaster responses.


On Tuesday, Mr Gönenli said that aside from embassy staff, Turkish and Singaporean volunteers had sorted through and packed the donations, picking out items that were suitable to send to Türkiye.

These included items that were in their original packaging. The volunteers also checked how the items looked, he added.

Mr Gönenli revealed that so far, the Turkish embassy has sent 116 tonnes (about 116,000kg) of donations – including tents, sleeping bags, clothing, baby food and blankets – to Türkiye via air.

The embassy then linked up with a transport company to transport another 55 tonnes of items by ship to Türkiye.

The embassy began accepting donations of winter clothing and other supplies, including tents and women’s hygiene products, shortly after the earthquake struck on the morning of Feb 6.

However, it was soon overwhelmed with donations at its premises in the SGX Centre 1 Building. Two other donation collection centres opened to help out.

When CNA was at one of the centres – Jay Gee Melwani House at 10 Genting Lane – on Feb 9, dozens turned up to donate supplies and lend a helping hand.

This led to the embassy announcing that it would temporarily suspend the collection of individual in-kind donations until further notice due to the “large in-flow”.

Despite this, supplies continued to pour in the following day.

At the time, Mr Gönenli appealed for people to make financial donations instead to “provide Turkish authorities with the requisite flexibility” due to the evolving list of needs for the earthquake victims.

On Tuesday, he told CNA that the embassy is working with the World Toilet Organisation, which was founded by Singaporean Jack Sim, as well as the Singapore Red Cross to send mobile toilets to Türkiye. This will benefit people who lost their homes and are staying in temporary shelters or container cities.

“The volume of donations we received was staggering, so again we are deeply grateful for that,” Mr Gönenli added.




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