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EU-Funded Cash Assistance Programme Reaches 250,000 Refugees In Türkiye

ANKARA – The number of refugees in Türkiye receiving monthly cash assistance through an innovative relief programme reached 250,000 this week. The EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) supports the most vulnerable refugee families in Türkiye with a debit card to cover basic needs such as food, rent, medicine, fuel for heating and warm clothing for winter.

The cards are loaded with 100 Turkish Lira (roughly €26) per family member every month. Registration for the programme began in November 2016 and continues across the country with the aim of assisting one million refugees in 2017.

“When we got the text message informing us we were accepted onto the programme, we could not believe our eyes,” said Um Jamil, a refugee mother from Aleppo currently living in Istanbul with her family of eight. “Our rent alone is 500 TL a month and now I can finally stop worrying about being evicted for not paying it on time,” she added. Um Jamil and her husband used their first ESSN cash transfer to buy food for the family, pay rent and their monthly water bill.

The ESSN programme is a partnership between the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Turkish Red Crescent and the Turkish government.

“Reaching a quarter of a million people with the ESSN card is a turning point in the delivery of humanitarian aid,” said Jane Lewis, Head of European Union Humanitarian Operations in Türkiye. “This is not just another cash card, it's an acknowledgement that refugees, despite their terrible ordeals, should have the right to choose how to manage their households and their lives.

Türkiye 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 Türkiye, hundreds of thousands are struggling to overcome challenging conditions and rely on this form of assistance to get by.

“This milestone could not have been achieved without the tremendous joint efforts of all partners involved in this programme. It really is a demonstration of the power of partnerships,” said Jean-Yves Lequime, WFP Country Representative in Türkiye.

Refugees living in Türkiye 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.

WFP signed the partnership agreement with the EU in September 2016. It is the largest contribution ever made by the EU for a humanitarian aid programme.

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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.

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For more information please contact:
Martin Penner, WFP/Ankara, Mob.  +39 340 246 6831
Abeer Etefa, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +2010 66634352
Dina El-Kassaby, WFP/Cairo, Tel. +2010 15218882
Dana Sacchetti, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39 06 6513 3234, Mob. +39 349 980 0442
Bettina Luescher, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41 22 917 8564, Mob. +41 79 842 8057
Gerald Bourke, WFP/New York, Tel. +1 646 5566909, Mob. +1 646 525 9982
Steve Taravella, WFP/Washington DC, Tel. +1 202 6531149, Mob. +1 202 7705993
Mathias Eick, ECHO/Ankara, Mob. +90-5334125663
Miray AKDAG ULUC, ECHO/ Ankara, Mob. +90 312 448 22 53