ANKARA – The number of refugees in Turkey receiving monthly cash assistance through an innovative relief programme has now reached 500,000 and continues to rise. The EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) supports the most vulnerable refugee families in Turkey with a debit card to cover basic needs such as food, rent, medicine and clothes.
The cards can be used in shops, like any debit card, or they can be used to withdraw cash from an automated teller machine (ATM). The programme provides 100 Turkish Lira (roughly €26) for each member of vulnerable families every month. Registration began in November 2016 and continues across the country with the goal of assisting at least one million refugees in 2017.
“The card helps me immensely with buying food and paying the rent. Getting by without it would be difficult because I have a big family,” said Şaban, a Syrian refugee who currently lives in the southern Turkish city of Gaziantep with his mother, wife and six children.
The ESSN programme is a partnership between the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the Turkish Red Crescent and the Turkish government.
“Reaching half a million people in less than six months is an enormous accomplishment. Traditional aid delivery would take much longer, cost more and not address what people really need: a basic income to cover their everyday needs. By teaming up with humanitarian actors and the government of Turkey we will soon be able to reach at least twice that number of people in need,” said Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
Turkey is generously hosting the largest refugee population in the world, an estimated three million people, the majority of whom were uprooted from their homes in neighbouring Syria. With more than 90 percent living outside refugee camps, in cities and villages across Turkey, hundreds of thousands are struggling to overcome challenging conditions and rely on this form of assistance to get by.
“Cash assistance is the right solution for refugees in Turkey. Everything they need is readily available in shops so the money they spend goes back into the communities that are hosting them,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “This support is helping thousands of parents give their children the stability they need at home.”
Turkish Red Crescent President Dr. Kerem Kınık said: “We have done exemplary work with the European Union and WFP to provide more humanitarian living conditions for refugees. Our humanitarian programs for Syrian refugees, which we implemented for 6 years with our own means, have reached a new level with the ESSN. From now on, I am certain that the standards set by the ESSN will be a reference point for assisting vulnerable people."
Refugees living in Turkey are able to apply for the programme through the offices of the Turkish Red Crescent and the Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundations of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies, which have been processing thousands of applications every week. Families assessed to be the most vulnerable then receive an SMS informing them that they have been accepted into the programme and will receive monthly cash assistance. Those families assessed to be ineligible are also informed via SMS and they can re-apply if their family composition changes over time.
WFP signed the partnership agreement with the EU in September 2016. The ESSN is the largest humanitarian project funded by the EU due to the number of people it intends to support and the importance of the EU's contribution.
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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
The European Union and its Member States are the world's leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity towards people in need all around the world. The EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters every year.
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WFP (e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org):
Martin Penner, WFP/Ankara, Mob. +39 340 246 6831
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Dina El-Kassaby, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +2010 15218882
Mathias Eick, ECHO/Ankara, Mob. +90-5334125663
Begum IMAN, Ankara, Mob. +90 (0) 536 866 01 58