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25/01/2022 | Article

Cash and livelihoods: a winning combination for long-term sustainability and support to refugees

By Deniz Kacmaz, IFRC Turkey, Livelihood Officer Turkey is hosting the largest refugee population in the world. More than 3.7 million Syrians have sought refuge as well as 330,000 under international protection and those seeking asylum, including Iraqis, Afghans, Iranians, Somalis, among others. With the conflict in Syria now entering its twelfth year with few signs of change, means that we are not just looking at a humanitarian emergency anymore, but on long-term resilience. Since the refugee influx began in Turkey, the Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) has been taking a leading role in the response. As of April 2020, Turkish Red Crescent through its KIZILAYKART platform and IFRC run the largest humanitarian cash programme in the world, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the EU. This programme has helped more than 1.5 million cover some of their most basic needs, covering their groceries, rent and utilities, medicine and their children's school supplies. But humanitarian emergency cash assistance can only go so far. There is also a need to focus on longer-term resilience. This is why we are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. From humanitarian cash to longer-term resilience We are working on both the urgent needs of refugees, while also supporting longer-term livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities. This means being part of the labour market to meet their own needs and rebuild their life without depending on social assistance, including the ESSN. We must focus on long-term solutions where refugees, supported by the ESSN, gain their power to stand on their feet and become self-reliant again. I have been working at IFRC Turkey Delegation for almost two years helping identify gaps and find opportunities to empower people's socio-economic capacities. This approach helps ensure they are resilient in combating challenges in the future, including the devastating socio-economic impacts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and general obstacles around employment opportunities. We have seen in many contexts when refugees are able to build their resilience and self-sufficiency, they can contribute even more meaningfully to the local economy. When they benefit, we all benefit, including host communities. What are we doing to bring this long-term solution to the lives of refugees? As of April 2021, we have launched referrals that link people receiving cash assistance through ESSN with a plethora of livelihood trainings and opportunities in Turkish Red Crescent community centres. The 19 community centres across Turkey offer support to both refugee and host communities, including work permit support, vocational courses such as sewing; mask producing; various agricultural trainings; and Turkish language courses and skills trainings. These services are critical to breaking barriers in the local markets. The community centres connect skilled individuals to relevant job opportunities by coordinating with public institutions and other livelihood sector representatives. The ESSN cash assistance provides support to refugees in the short term while giving them opportunities to learn new skills, which can lead to income generation in the long term. How do we conduct referrals from the ESSN to livelihoods? There are many sources where families are identified for referrals, some of the most common are: Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) Service Centre 168 Kızılay Call Centre Direct e-mail address to the TRC referral and outreach team Identified potential individuals among ESSN protection cases Field teams including monitoring and evaluation and referral and outreach teams who are regularly engaging with those benefitting from ESSN In the first months of combining cash assistance with longer-term programmes, we have supported more than 1,000 refugees. Some have been referred to employment supports including consultancy for employment and work permit support, while others are attending language courses, vocational trainings, and skills development courses through public institutions, NGOs, UN agencies and TRC’s community centres. Though we have developed a robust livelihood referral system, collectively, we need to make stronger investments in social economic empowerment in the future. While we continue to work on improving our programming and referral mechanisms, as IFRC, we are also reaching out to agencies, civil society, donors, and authorities tolook at how we can: increase investment in socio-economic empowerment in Turkey, mitigate barriers to employment for refugees, and create greater synergies between humanitarian and development interventions. It is this collective effort that will deliver the longer-term gains necessary for both refugee and local communities in Turkey to thrive. -- The ESSN is the largest humanitarian cash assistance program in the world, and it is funded by the European Union. The ESSN has been implemented nationwide in Turkey in coordination and collaboration with the Turkish Red Crescent and International Federation of Red Cross and Crescent Societies (IFRC). We reach more than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey through the ESSN, and we give cash assistance to the most vulnerable populations to make sure they meet their basic needs and live a dignified life. The Turkish Red Crescent with its 19 community centres throughout Turkey supports millions of refugees as well as host communities. The Centres provide several courses, vocational trainings, social cohesion activities, health, psychosocial support, and protection services, among others.

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18/01/2022 | Press release

#PowerToBe campaign launches to help shift perceptions of refugees

Ankara/Berlin, 18 January 2022 -The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a campaign to tackle negative perceptions of refugees at an increasingly critical time across Europe. The #PowerToBe campaign follows four passionate Syrians living in Turkey – Hiba, a musician, Eslam, an illustrator, Ibrahim, a swimmer and Mohammed, a coffee lover – who are regaining control of their lives through the help of monthly cash assistance funded by the EU, ultimately giving them more power to be themselves. The four protagonists each meet digitally with influential people from Germany, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal and Poland who share a common passion for music, art, water sports and coffee. The campaign shows how people from all walks of life can connect with one another at eye-level despite differences in language or backgrounds. In the #PowerToBe campaign, fifteen-year-old drawer Eslam speaks to well-known German illustrator Steffen Kraft, Italian street artist and painter Alice Pasquini and Swedish street artist Johan Karlgren about her passion for illustration. “Drawing a lot helped me to show the world, even if only a little, what happened in Syria,” Eslam said. Ibrahim, who became paralyzed during the conflict in Syria, connects with Polish professional high diver, Kris Kolanus about the freedom and boundlessness they both feel in the ocean. “Even though many things can hinder me, I am trying to do something. For next year, I’m preparing myself to swim the competition across the Bosporus.” Mohammed, a father of two, talks to Turkish coffee bean suppliers Hasibe and Ümit about his passion and memories associated with coffee. “When we came to Turkey to an empty house, we had nothing at all. Some Turkish brothers helped us, gave us some furniture.” They tasted his coffee and told him it was “the best they’ve ever had”. Hiba, who now attends a music school in Istanbul, connected with Portuguese singer-songwriter April Ivy, whom she wrote and sang a song with. “I like to give people hope because whatever struggles we go through, there are actually nice things happening as well,” Hiba says. Turkey is currently home to the world’s largest refugee population with almost four million who are trying to rebuild their lives. About 3.7 million of those are Syrians who fled the conflict that has devastated their country. Funded by the European Union, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the biggest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The ESSN is implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC in coordination with the Government of Turkey. The cash assistance helps give refugees some relief from an exceptionally challenging year where many are facing deepening debt and poverty due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19. Cash assistance helps give people like Hiba, Eslam, Mohammed and Ibrahim freedom and dignity to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. At the same time, it provides the opportunity to invest back into communities that host them, supporting the local Turkish economy. This year we have seen vulnerable refugee communities slip further into hardships, but we also see their hope and strength. Through this campaign, we wanted to highlight the contributions and resilience they have despite all the challenges. When given the right support, refugees’ potential is endless. Jagan Chapagain IFRC Secretary General Hiba, Eslam, Ibrahim and Mohammed were forced to leave everything behind, but have held on to their dreams and continued to pursue them with passion. The ESSN programme offers a critical lifeline to them and 1.5 million other vulnerable refugees in Turkey, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. We are proud to see the tangible difference it makes by giving them the opportunity to make choices for their lives. Janez Lenarčič EU Commissioner for Crisis Management More information Click here to download more information about the #PowerToBe campaign, including short backgrounds on each of the people receiving ESSN assistance and the influencers taking part. You can also visit the #PowerToBe website and learn more about the ESSN on our website here. To arrange interviews, please contact: In Berlin: Samantha Hendricks (Social Social), +49 1577 495 8901, [email protected] In Turkey: Nisa Çetin (Turkish Red Crescent), +90 554 830 31 14, [email protected] In Turkey: Corrie Butler (IFRC), +90 539 857 51 98, [email protected] In Turkey: Lisa Hastert (ECHO), +90 533 412 56 63. [email protected]

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04/03/2022 | Basic page

Refugees telling their own stories

Through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), we're supporting Syrian refugees living in Türkiye to tell their stories about the realities and issues that matter to them. This page is dedicated to showcasing the stories of Ahmed, Asmaa, Nour, Alaa, Farouk, Abdurrezak, Luai and Malak in their own words.

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02/12/2021 | Press release

€325 million boost to EU’s largest ever humanitarian programme, reaching 1.5 million vulnerable refugees in Turkey

Thursday, 2 December: Ankara, Turkey - More than 1.5 million refugees in Turkey will continue receiving critical support thanks to a €325 million boost from the EU’s largest humanitarian cash programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and the Turkish Red Crescent Society in close coordination with the Government of Turkey. In a press conference today in Ankara, Turkey, Janez Lenarčič, EU Commissioner for Crisis Management said: “Thanks to new EU funds announced today, we will be able to continue the ESSN programme throughout 2022. This support is a critical lifeline for thousands of families, many of whom have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. This cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves what they need most urgently, whilst contributing to the Turkish economy.” Turkey currently hosts the largest refugee population in the world, many of which are Syrians. The ESSN has been providing monthly financial assistance via the “Kizilaykart” debit card since 2016, helping families cover their most essential needs, such as food, rent, transport and medicine. The additional funds from the European Commission will continue until early 2023. Refugee families currently receive 155 Turkish Lira (about €10) monthly per person with additional quarterly top-ups based on family size, enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover what they need while contributing to the local Turkish economy. The cash assistance, which is aligned with the existing Turkish safety net, currently supports around one-third of the vulnerable refugee population in the country. Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General said: “We are seeing the destructive secondary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly for those most vulnerable, including refugees. We’ve heard from families who are making impossible decisions – between covering their bills, feeding their families, or keeping their children in school. Now more than ever, this cash assistance is critical – it is a lifeline for so many.” New research from Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC has shown that debt levels among refugees in Turkey have more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began with just under half of those surveyed not having an acceptable food consumption, a 20 per cent increase in the last year. The cash assistance from the ESSN is providing an important buffer, with one in two people saying it has helped them manage their debt. Dr. Kerem Kınık, President of Turkish Red Crescent said: “Many vulnerable groups are facing one of their most difficult years, living in hard conditions. Many have come to Turkey for safety. Continued support to the ESSN will ensure families can keep a roof over their children's heads, feed their families and help them get through these difficult times.” AV materials Photos from the visit Additional b-roll on the ESSN programme Background European Union: The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Relief assistance is an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by disasters and crises. Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO), the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, reaching 150 million people in 192 National Societies, including Turkish Red Crescent, through the work of 13.7 million volunteers. The IFRC acts before, during and after disasters to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. The IFRC has been leading large-scale cash programmes for decades in response to a broad spectrum of disasters around the globe. The Turkish Red Crescent (Türk Kızılay) is the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey, helping vulnerable people in and out of disasters for years, both in the country and abroad. Since 2012, the TRC has been providing first-line response to the refugee influx, supporting millions of people in camps and urban settings. Through their leading cash team and the “Kizilaykart” debit card, the TRC supports millions of vulnerable refugees and Turkish communities to cover their basic needs. The Turkish Red Crescent, IFRC and EU work in coordination with the Government of Turkey and its Ministry of Family and Social Services. The Government of Turkey is an important partner of the Emergency Social Safety Net programme, which is linked to the existing social system in Turkey. The country hosts the world’s largest number of refugees, and the Turkish Government plays a leading role, with regards to the response to the Syria crisis. For more information or to arrange an interview: European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations: Lisa Hastert, +905334125663, [email protected] IFRC: Corrie Butler, +90 539 8575198, [email protected] Turkish Red Crescent: Nisa Çetin, +90 554 8303114, [email protected]

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06/08/2021 | Press release

IFRC: Delta variant a huge threat in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia

Budapest/Geneva, 6 August 2021 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is calling for more assistance and for vaccinations to be stepped up in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia, where rising COVID-19 cases and deaths triggered by the Delta variant are putting health systems under severe strain. Europe now has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the world and has just passed 60 million coronavirus infections. There were sharp increases throughout July – and more than one million cases reported in the last seven days alone[i]. As the majority of Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia is still unvaccinated, medical services in some countries are becoming overwhelmed. Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s Regional Director for Europe, said: “Time is of the essence. With the highly contagious Delta variant sweeping across the region, millions of people in fragile or unstable settings are at heightened risk. “With support from the IFRC, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are working tirelessly to help those in need, but additional support is needed to save lives and address long term socio economic and health effects. The new wave of the pandemic is having a knock-on effect and will significantly impact the wellbeing of the most vulnerable.” In Georgia, new infections have skyrocketed by 90 per cent in the last fortnight. Authorities had to expand the capacity of pediatric wards recently, as more children were getting sick, and the number of hotels used as clinics for people with mild symptoms is up. In Russia, daily infections have almost tripled since the beginning of June, with 23,000 on average in the past week. In Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan hospitalisations are on the rise. The situation is also deteriorating in Ukraine, as well as in Turkey, Montenegro and Baltic countries. Younger generations, who often come last in vaccination campaigns, are being increasingly affected by COVID-19 in the region. This is adding pressure on health systems, as many need to be hospitalised, and can negatively impact other people around them too. Ebbesen highlighted that vaccination is the key to curb the spread of COVID-19, together with maintaining crucial preventive measures such as mask wearing, hand washing, physical distancing and meeting outdoors or in well ventilated spaces. However, there is a widening gap across Europe: in the richest countries, 60 per cent of people had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of 27 July, as opposed to less than 10 per cent in the lowest income countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia. “Vaccination, not vaccines, saves lives. Donors, governments and civil society, we must all do our part so that vaccines get into the arms of those who need them most. “But this depends largely on the availability of doses and people’s willingness to get immunised. It is essential to collectively step up our assistance so that everyone has access to vaccination and nobody hesitates whether to get a jab or not,” stressed Ebbesen. Worryingly, as holiday travel and easing of lockdowns further the risk of COVID-19 spreading, vital operational funds to support people in need are running out. “We are concerned about not being able to meet the growing needs, particularly as the socio-economic crisis deepens. Not even 60 per cent of IFRC’s COVID-19 Emergency Appeal is covered, which limits our capacity to provide basic humanitarian aid,” warned Ebbesen. [i] https://covid19.who.int/table For more information, please contact: In Budapest: -Ainhoa Larrea, +36 705 070 131, [email protected] - Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected] In Geneva: - Teresa Goncalves, +44 7891 857 056, [email protected]

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02/08/2021 | Press release

Hundreds of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers responding to wildfires across Europe

Ankara/Budapest/Geneva, 2 August 2021 – Volunteers from Greece, Italy, Russia, Spain, and Turkey are responding to several wildfires raging across Europe. Scorching temperatures, high winds and tinder dry conditions have forced rescues by sea and land, with thousands of people fleeing for their lives with just the clothes on their backs. In southern Turkey eight people have died and scores are injured. Hundreds of animals have been killed and countless homes lost in the worst hit areas of Antalya and Bodrum. More than 2,000 Turkish Red Crescent staff and volunteers are on the ground. Shafiquzzaman Rabbani, Acting Head of Turkey delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said: “We are very concerned at this week’s weather forecast, with temperatures tipped to reach as high as 40 degrees Celsius in Antalya today. Teams of Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and staff are doing everything they can to assist those affected.” Turkish Red Crescent is providing food through its mobile kitchens, distributing water and hygiene kits, and providing shelter and psychosocial support to firefighters and affected communities. In Greece, Hellenic Red Cross rescuers and lifeguards have been evacuating trapped people by boat from the settlements of Kamares, Longos and Platiri. Earlier in the week they were helping the fire brigade quell a fire in Patras. Extreme temperatures forecast for this week have teams on high alert. Italian Red Cross has been assisting with evacuations in Sardinia and distributing water and food. They have delivered animal feed to farmers as fires continued over the weekend. More than 800 flare-ups were recorded this weekend, mainly in the south, and firefighters continue to flight blazes in Sicily. Spanish Red Cross volunteers have also been busy this weekend assisting at a fire at San Juan reservoir, 70km from Madrid, and 25 Russian Red Cross volunteers are still at the scene of a fire in Karelia, distributing food, water, bedding, hygiene kits and personal protective equipment to people affected. IFRC Europe’s acting head of Disaster, Climate and Crises Antoine Belair said the increasing number of wildfires year on year across the Mediterranean is linked to climate change causing more extreme weather conditions, including lower rainfall and higher temperatures. “Extreme weather conditions exacerbate risks of these events. Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies remain on high alert, providing support to affected populations, in close coordination with national authorities and firefighter teams,” he said. Footnote: Advice on how to prepare for a forest fire can be viewed here. For more information, please contact: In Ankara: Elif Isik, +90 539 857 5197, [email protected] In Budapest: Corinne Ambler, +36 704 306 506, [email protected] In Geneva: Nathalie Perroud, +41 79 538 14 71, [email protected]

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18/06/2021 | Press release

Refugees are paying the highest price in the COVID-19 pandemic

Geneva, 18 June 2021 – Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) raises the alarm about the situation of refugees who are facing severe humanitarian hardships, which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Secretary General, said: “Vulnerable groups, such as refugees, are paying the highest price in the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing alarming trends that show many refugees around the world are unable to pay for food or rent and are struggling to access health care and education. “Refugees have been disproportionately affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and have often been left out of socio-economic support policies. A large number of refugees have lost their sources of income or depleted their savings and are now adopting negative strategies to survive.” In Bangladesh, latest analysis carried out in refugee camps in Cox's Bazar by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society – with support from the IFRC – reveals that communities are struggling to cover their essential needs, particularly due to COVID-19 related movement restrictions, health issues, restricted access to markets, and a recent major fire in the camps. Price hikes in local markets and further displacement caused by camp fires have pushed many families further into food insecurity. During April and May, around 30,000 refugees in the Cox's Bazar camps raised questions and concerns, with 63% seeking services, including urgent food relief and shelter. Just over one third (37%) requested health or medical care. In the past year, reduced presence of humanitarian organizations in the camps due to COVID-19 restrictions also led to an increase in child labour, sexual and gender-based violence and heightened risk of human trafficking. In addition, an increase in child marriage has been observed since the start of the pandemic, often seen as an alternative to education or work. In Colombia, border closures, movement restrictions and loss of livelihoods led to limited access to food and accommodation, with many refugees and migrants – most of whom are from Venezuela - eating only once per day. 18% of those surveyed by the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab cited food security and malnutrition as the biggest risks for children during the pandemic. In Turkey, a recent study – conducted by the Turkish Red Crescent and the IFRC – indicates that, among the 4,500 refugee households surveyed[1], debt levels have increased by nearly 50% over the last year. Even more alarming is the fact that many families are unable or can barely afford to pay for what they need most, such as food (72%) and rent (66%). However, cash assistance provided by the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is helping refugees to cover some of these costs. In order to cope with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, refugees are increasingly relying on survival strategies, such as reducing food consumption, buying cheaper and less nutritious food, buying food on credit and borrowing money from relatives and friends. These strategies have negative consequences on health and well-being and contribute to worrying levels of food insecurity and skyrocketing debts for refugees. “Nobody should be forced to choose between giving their family food or paying their rent; nor face hunger or forced evictions,” said Jagan Chapagain. “Governments should work together with donors, international and multilateral organizations, private sector and civil society to effectively mitigate the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups, such as refugees and migrants. It's our shared responsibility to ensure that everyone can meet their most essential needs”. -- [1] Households receiving cash assistance from the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) are identified as “eligible” in the Intersectoral Vulnerability Study, while those not receiving support are “ineligible”. In Turkey, refugees are officially recognized as “foreigners who are under international protection or temporary protection”.

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07/06/2021 | Press release

Red Cross Red Crescent warns of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people in Europe

Budapest/Geneva, 7 June 2021 – The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic will have far-reaching impacts for entire generations, warned the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Several studies by Red Cross and Red Crescent societies across Europe show an alarming pattern, which requires increased efforts to tackle inequity and assist those most in need. Antónia de Barros Mota, head of Mental Health/Psychosocial Support for IFRC Europe, said: “The mental health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are like invisible scars or hidden wounds. Young people and children are suffering stress, bereavement and loneliness, which can worsen as time passes. Their parents may have lost their jobs. Lockdowns and other restrictions continue to hamper their access to education, training and work.” The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a critical point recently. Four university students took their own lives in a campus in southern France in the last quarter of 2020. French Red Cross set up a 24/7 rapid intervention team[i] to support those at risk. During the first six months they dealt with 11 students including eight who required immediate hospitalisation. “With end of school year exams approaching, staff and volunteers are on high alert,” explained Sara Salinas, coordinator of the French Red Cross emergency service in the county. A Spanish Red Cross study[ii] among families with young children revealed the majority now live in extreme poverty. Nearly 40 per cent are unemployed and three quarters cannot afford expenses such as glasses or hearing aids for their children. Most parents reported feeling worried or stressed, impacting their ability to emotionally support their children. Research by Austrian Red Cross[iii] found sleep and eating disturbances among children had doubled, and that after the second lockdown in 2020, 16 per cent of children interviewed in North Tyrol (Austria) and South Tyrol (Italy) were likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Refugees and migrant children are also significantly affected by the pandemic. A Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC study[iv] found a third were unable to access online school lessons. Another study with German Red Cross in Turkey showed that when forced to stay home children displayed more behavioural problems, and traumatic memories were triggered for some. Europe has had more than 54.6 million COVID-19 cases and 1.1 million deaths to date[v] – a third of infections and fatalities worldwide. Declining trends are promising, but the pandemic’s effects could be long-lasting. “Authorities and civil society organizations must scale up programmes and resources to help vulnerable youth and children – including basic livelihoods assistance and tailored mental health and psychosocial support. It is crucial to promote resilience at the individual level and within society as a whole,” de Barros Mota concluded. Since the beginning of the pandemic, IFRC and Red Cross Red Crescent societies throughout Europe have provided mental health and psychosocial support to 1.8 million people. [i] https://www.croix-rouge.fr/Actualite/Coronavirus-COVID-19/Un-dispositif-de-soutien-inedit-pour-les-etudiants-en-detresse-psychique-2487 [ii] https://www2.cruzroja.es/-/el-96-de-las-familias-con-hijos-de-0-a-6-anos-atendidas-por-cruz-roja-esta-en-riesgo-de-pobreza-y-exclusion-social [iii] Silvia Exenberger; Anna Wenter; Christina Taferner; Nina Haid-Stecher; Maximilian Schickl; Barbara Juen; Kathrin Sevecke; Heidi Siller. "The experience of threat through Covid-19 in children: Gender as moderating factor" has been received by European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The submission id is: ECAP-D-21-00298, May 2021 [iv] https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Impact-of-COVID-19-on-Refugee-Populations-Benefitting-from-ESSN-Programme.pdf [v] https://covid19.who.int/

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26/02/2021 | Article

“I am not one voice. I am the voice of refugees”: Here’s what one inspiring young Syrian wants you to know

Hi, my name is Reyan. I have many plans for my life and my future, for the world. I want to live a life full of happiness. I want to help every child… Reyan Reyan is a painter, writer and poet. Although she uses different mediums, the story in each poem, text and painting talks about one thing: her home country Syria. The 18-year-old young woman has been through a lot; a war, loss of her loved ones, and destitution. The pain, distress and hardship can be easily seen in her drawings and words on a frequent basis. However, her determination, strength and hope are also there. The young and promising artist wants to accomplish a lot in the face of the darkness that fills her art sketchbooks and notebooks. As the Syrian war approaches the 10-year mark, here is a letter in her own words, what she wants you to know: “I am hearing a voice calling me from afar: “Girl, get up, the darkness is getting stronger and fills the country. Get up. Come on, do not give in. The darkness is getting worse. Injustice has begun. The war has eaten us with an unknown mouth. Rise up and raise your voice for the right to peace. Do not be afraid. We are with you. We all want peace; we all want our rights.” I am not one voice; I am all your voices. I am us and you are me. Let us end the darkness and let the light begin again to unleash it. I am a simple girl; I aspire simple things. Despite darkness, injustice, poverty and oppression, despite everything, I just want you to help me reach my voice. I want injustice, bullying, poverty to stop. I want peace for us. I want to defend all our rights to end the black war. An inner voice expresses my story, pain and patience. I could have told you about my story, but my story is a story of a story: homeland.” Like Reyan, many people have had to find refuge from the Syrian war and taken shelter in neighbouring countries. Funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash assistance is helping 1.8 million refugees in Turkey to have much-needed stability by covering their most essential needs so that they can fulfil their dreams. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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22/02/2021 | Article

From borrowing money to independence: Refugee family becomes debt-free with cash assistance

Ömer Eddağavi and his family have been living on unstable income since arriving in Turkey six years ago after fleeing conflict in Syria.Relying on seasonal work on farms, forced Eddağavi to borrow money from relatives and friends when there was no job to feed his family.“It is so hard to be dependent on debts when you are responsible for a crowded family. Because you don’t know if you will be able to borrow money next time,” said Eddağavi.However, since the day they started to receive the monthly cash assistance offered by the IFRC and the Turkish Red Crescent, with funding from the European Union, Eddağavi and his family broke the vicious cycle of debt to stay afloat.“Thanks to god, we can live without being in debt and pay our bills,” said Eddağavi.More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN)  Funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are providing monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the ESSN programme. This is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC.ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, they receive 120 Turkish Lira (18 euros), enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine.*This story was originally published on Turkish Red Crescent’s kizilaykart.org website and adapted by the IFRC.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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22/01/2021 | Article

12 months of coronavirus in Europe

… in this together, with Red Cross Red Crescent By Susan Cullinan, IFRC The moment the first coronavirus case was reported in Europe – on 24 January 2020, in Bordeaux, France - no one could have possibly imagined the monumental scale of the year of loss and struggle ahead. Nor could they have foreseen how Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies stepped up their activities across Europe and Central Asia, enabling them to be at the heart of the response. Staff and volunteers from the movement have been running first aid tents, delivering critical supplies to the elderly, caring for the sick and dying, at the end of the phone for people unable to leave home. They’ve provided food, shelter, a kind word and a friendly face, supported those who fall through the cracks – the migrants, people on the move, people who are homeless. They’ve provided trusted information. The numbers are staggering. More than 12.5 million people across the region have received food and other material aid from Red Cross Red Crescent[1]. More than 2.8 million people have received direct cash or voucher assistance and 1.3 million more received psychosocial support to help them through the tough times. Red Cross Red Crescent ambulances carried more than 325,000 COVID-19 patients to hospitals. Accurate information was shared to help inform people about the virus and how to stay safe, and an estimated 60 million people in the region have been reached with this messaging. The breathtaking spread of the virus With Italy the centre of the first wave, and the first country to go into lockdown, it remained the hardest hit country in Europe for months. Italian Red Cross was the first National Society in Europe to deliver food and medicine to people in quarantine, and ramped up their ambulance service to cope with the escalating number of people infected. By March Europe was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that on 18 March more than 250 million people were in lockdown in Europe. And now, nearly 12 months after the first case, sadly by 19 January 2021, 30.8 million cases were confirmed and 674,00 people in the region had died. [2] The Red Cross Red Crescent response needed to be swift. On 30 January the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern and the following day the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) allocated funds for a Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) and a preliminary Emergency Appeal. With its long experience in health emergencies it anticipated COVID-19 could develop into a pandemic with a devastating humanitarian impact and sadly it has shaped up to be one of the world’s most challenging crises, affecting every corner of the region with everyone vulnerable to contracting this virus. In line with Red Cross Red Crescent’s unique role as auxiliary to government, and as a community-based and widely-trusted organization, in Europe region the Red Cross movement came up with innovative responses. The Austrian Red Cross developed a contact tracing app. British Red Cross surveyed people on their loneliness and pivoted to provide extra support for those newly alone. The Czech Red Cross trained volunteers to work in hospitals that had become overwhelmed. The Turkish Red Crescent researched people’s knowledge and attitudes towards the virus and pivoted to fill the gaps they discovered. Swedish volunteers helped children with their homework. The Red Crosses of the countries of Italy, Slovenia and Croatia worked together to get supplies across their borders to people in an isolated part of Croatia. Extra support was given to people with HIV in Eastern Europe and Central Asia whose treatment was disrupted by the pandemic. With the rapid surge in prevention activity, while case numbers grew at an alarming rate, by the end of Spring the situation had improved somewhat. By summer as numbers plateaued government restrictions relaxed. The movement urged people to stay the course and maintain prevention measures in the face of pandemic fatigue and a sense the worst was behind us. Second wave Sadly conditions deteriorated, leading to a second wave. From late July case and death numbers steadily worsened again. By October, the Europe region accounted for the greatest proportion of reported new cases globally, with over 1.3 million new cases in the last week of October, a 33% leap in cases in a week. The national societies doubled down. Many had by now switched to remote and on-line support, however 23 National Societies continued to deliver COVID-safe clinical and paramedical services, including those in Germany, Italy, Israel, Spain and the UK. As well they ran quarantine and testing stations, triage facilities and outpatient fever clinics to support the public emergency medical service, and provided mobile care services. Some National Societies also supported experimental treatments by collecting plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 and had antibodies, and in turn provided this plasma to hospitals to treat very sick patients. Countless training and guidance sessions for staff and volunteers on COVID-19 were helped across the region, on the proper use of personal protective equipment and ambulances cleaning and disinfection. Vaccines – a potential game changer By the start of December, the future started to look brighter. Countries started to plan for the possible arrival of vaccines, but this was taking place against a background of a relentless resurgence in the number of people infected with COVID-19. In the WHO Europe region, there had been more than 4 million new cases in November alone, with the region accounting for 40 % of new global cases and 50% of new global deaths. [3] The vaccine results have come to be seen a large part of the solutions to containing the virus, but it has brought with it the challenge of countering misinformation and building trust in vaccines, as well as managing expectations that they will bring about a quick end to the pandemic. IFRC has supported local efforts to educate communities about their safety and efficacy. Those hardest hit In January more evidence came to light of the disproportionate impact the coronavirus was having on older people when the IFRC’s Europe office published the results of a survey[4] which found older people had become sicker, poorer and more alone as a result of the pandemic. It added to a growing body of evidence that coronavirus had harmed the poor and most vulnerable the most, pushing millions more into poverty. [5] Sadly, migrants were also identified in new IFRC research as those least protected and most affected by the pandemic. [6] And now, as we enter the start of the second year of the pandemic under ongoing harsh lockdowns, many countries are starting to see cases stabilise and even reduce. This emergency has had significant challenges, including global flows of misinformation and disinformation, response fatigue and system-wide impacts of multiple waves of cases. The Red Cross Red Crescent movement is well-placed to do its part in the regional response given its extensive history with disease outbreak. And planners in the movement acknowledge that vaccines will not be the silver bullet to end this pandemic alone. Red Cross will continue to work with communities to ensure they are informed about the virus, how it spreads and what to do to keep safe. It’s continuing to advocate for tracing and isolation of people who are ill as a central part of the response. To keep in the fight against COVID-19, the entire population must stick to the preventative measures which have been proven to help stop the spread of the virus – even as a vaccine becomes more widely available. [1] https://go.ifrc.org/emergencies/3972#actions [2] https://covid19.who.int/ [3] https://www.euro.who.int/en/about-us/regional-director/news/news/2020/12/whoeuropes-year-in-review-2020 [4] https://www.ifrc.org/press-release/new-study-finds-coronavirus-has-left-older-people-poorer-sicker-and-more-alone [5] https://blogs.worldbank.org/voices/2020-year-review-impact-covid-19-12-charts [6] https://www.ifrc.org/press-release/migrants-and-refugees-least-protected-most-affected-covid-crisis-warns-ifrc-president

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20/01/2021 | Article

Syrian refugee gets through challenges with power of writing

Said loves reading and transforming his personal struggles into stories and poems. Each tells a different story close to his heart about love, loss and the everyday challenges of those forced to flee conflict, like himself. “How can I be indifferent to the suffering of those people injured by bombardments,” he says. “I write about humanity and homelessness. About the ones who were displaced just like us. I feel them and I feel their suffering. These are the people of my country – they are my family.” Said is a 66-year-old Syrian refugee living in Turkey; he and his family were forced to flee their hometown in Syria’s southwestern area of East Ghouta in 2018. Said remembers a beautiful life before the war, full of nature and books. Working as a farmer since he was 12, he was growing vegetables and raising livestock. Inside his house, he had a large library, filled with precious manuscripts and books from well-known philosophers. When a rocket landed on their home in Eastern Ghouta, the whole library was engulfed in flames. “The fire devoured everything, blew up everything. With all the past, with all the books it had, with all the documents there. It was my legacy and the legacy of my ancestors. And all were gone,” remembers Said. When the rocket attack tore through his home, he remained under the rubbles with his three-months-old grandchild Jana and shrapnel from the rocket severely injured him and paralyzed almost one side of his body. With barely any time to recover, they were forced out of their village and crossed into Turkey. Said’s wounds are still fresh. However, writing, reading and time with his little grandchildren help him hold on to hopes of a new life. “I sit with my grandchildren, they are always with me. We play games together and I tell them stories. I think I am child-like to them,” Said says with a smile. Starting over in a foreign country with a physical disability was not easy. Now, Said receives small cash assistance each month from the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC, with funding from the European Union. Due to many health problems he and his family have, they use most of the cash assistance to buy medicine. Funded by the European Union and its Member States under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) provides monthly cash assistance via debit cards to nearly 1.8 million of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The cash assistance enables them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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08/12/2020 | Press release

Campaign showcases how cash assistance helps refugees in Turkey regain control of their lives

Ankara/Berlin/Geneva, 8 December 2020 – A digital campaign that connects inspiring and talented refugees in Turkey with influencers across Europe has been launched today by the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The campaign highlights the passions and dreams of four young refugees – a singer, a cook, a footballer and a parkour runner – who regain control of their lives through the largest humanitarian programme of the European Union (EU). Turkey is currently home to almost four million displaced people - the largest refugee population in the world. About 3.6 million of them are Syrians who fled the war that has devastated their country. The four refugees participating in the campaign are supported by the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), which is funded by the EU and implemented by the IFRC and the Turkish Red Crescent, in partnership with the Government of Turkey. It provides financial support to vulnerable refugees in Turkey who are struggling to make ends meet. Through the ESSN, around 1.8 million vulnerable refugees – mostly from Syria - receive small monthly payments via a debit card. The regular cash assistance allows them to pay for what they need most, such as food, rent, transport, and medicines. An additional quarterly allowance is provided, depending on family size, with special payments to those who require further care. This financial support gives families the dignity of choice and prevents them from adopting negative coping mechanisms, such as pulling children out of school to bring money in for the family or falling deeper into debt. Thanks to the ESSN, families regain control of their lives and ultimately the power to be themselves. The digital campaign, #powertobe, launched in five countries – Austria, France, Romania, Spain, and Turkey –aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people fleeing conflict, by portraying them as individuals with passions and talents. In the campaign, Davud, Amal, Bilal and Hamad talk about their passions, dreams and challenges as they rebuild a new normalcy in Turkey. "I didn't bring anything with me from Syria. We only came with our souls. Cooking helps me forget the outside world. The money which I get from the card helps me, so that nothing is missing for my children", says Amal. The campaign sees the four young refugees meet with the influencers digitally and discuss their common passions in video messages, online calls and eye-level cell phone clips. The campaign will run from 8 December 2020 to 4 January 2021.For more informationFor more information about the ESSN digital campaign, visit powertobe.ifrc.orgShare the campaign on social media using the hashtag: #powertobe

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30/11/2020 | Article

COVID-19: an opportunity to challenge our traditional way of working with communities

By Sevde Nur Söylemez COVID-19 has challenged our approach as humanitarians – how can we still support the most vulnerable while still keeping people safe from this pandemic? For Turkey, we’ve learned to challenge our traditional way of supporting communities and have adapted – even reinvented some of the ways we do things. I have worked for the Turkish Red Crescent for more than 2 years now, supporting the world’s largest humanitarian cash programme, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) with the IFRC and funding from the European Union. This programme supports 1.8 million refugees living in Turkey with monthly cash assistance to help them buy the things they need most. One of the most critical parts of our job is engaging with the communities we help, to hear people’s perceptions, so we can respond better to their needs. One of the best ways to do this is through focus group discussions - a crucial research tool that provides richer experiences and ideas from people who are generally coming from similar backgrounds. No matter the condition, never stop the communication Without the same opportunity to have these face-to-face interactions, we came up with a different innovative approach - remote focus group discussions, which had never been done in the programme before. Its key findings are fundamental to better understand the current struggles and situations refugees are facing during the pandemic all while keeping them safe from the spread of COVID-19. Findings: The devastating impacts of COVID-19 I heard many heart-breaking stories of refugees, trying to make ends meet. In most households, the sole breadwinner lost their jobs due to the pandemic. COVID-19’s effect has also had severe mental health impacts – families are more isolated as visits between neighbours, friends and relatives are limited. In addition, the children have some challenges in accessing the online curriculum. Among the things people shared, these quotes stuck out for me: “I used to have a grocery store, but I had to close it.” “It affected us and our jobs. I couldn’t work for three months” “I don’t have neighbours but I have many relatives here. My daughter was in the hospital for 12 days. No one could come because they were afraid.” Nevertheless, when they talk about the situation, we could see the hope and expectation of a better future. Many told us how the ESSN cash assistance has been a lifeline and that it would have been even harder without it. How did we conduct the remote focus group discussions? The Turkish Red Crescent has a call centre, an important source of information for people we help. We utilized this to call families to confirm their participation in the discussion. We go to the household and meet the participant, ensure written consent and hand them a mobile phone that they use to connect online to a digital focus group discussion, hosted by the Turkish Red Crescent. Field staff were on standby to help if any problem occurs with the connection or device while they were in the session. During the discussion, if there are any issues we identify it and take or refer the case immediately to our other relevant teams. (Photo: Turkish Red Crescent) Less participants, more expression Across Turkey, we conducted 26 focus group discussions, between four to six participants attending each. Groups were also broken down between men and women. We found we could reach and include the elderly and people with disabilities without inconvenience. This gave us a greater opportunity to hear and understand their opinions and made the bond between us even stronger. Whenever we arrive in communities, we are welcomed. Although we have physical distance between us – at least 1,5 meters – our faces hidden behind masks, we can still feel the warm smiles. The pandemic may have changed the way we approach our work, but the connection between us and participants has never stopped, there is always a way. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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31/10/2020 | Press release

Red Crescent and Red Cross provide urgent assistance following powerful earthquake in Turkey and Greece

Izmir/Ankara/Budapest/Geneva, 31 October 2020 – Turkish Red Crescent Society (Türk Kizilay) is continuing to provide life-saving assistance to people affected by the 6.6 magnitude earthquake that struck yesterday off Turkey's Aegean coast, north of the Greek island of Samos. According to initial reports by Turkish authorities, at least 25 people have lost their lives, more than 800 have been injured, and several buildings have collapsed or sustained damage following the tremors. “Right now, we have a critical life-saving window – our teams are focused on ensuring people get the urgent support they need in the hours and days after this earthquake, including hot meals, hygiene items and psychosocial support,” said Ibrahim Ozer, Turkish Red Crescent Deputy Director General for Disaster Management from Izmir, the most affected area in Turkey. “Many are also unable to return home due to the aftershocks and we’re focused on ensuring some of their most basic needs are met – such as food, emergency housing and other essential items.” More than 140 Turkish Red Crescent volunteers and personnel were immediately sent to the affected area. Volunteers have been supporting authorities in search and rescue efforts, providing psychosocial support as well as deploying their mobile kitchens with the capacity to serve 56,300 people with hot food. In Greece, which was also hit by the earthquake, a Hellenic Red Cross rescue team has arrived on the island of Samos and is working with authorities to determine the most pressing needs. The teams are trained in first aid, rescue and water provision among other emergency skills. Two teenagers died on Samos after a wall collapsed on them while they were walking home from school. IFRC regional director for Europe Birgitte Ebbesen said the quick response by Turkish Red Crescent and Hellenic Red Cross rescue teams was to be commended and showed the importance of local preparedness and action. “Turkish Red Crescent and Hellenic Red Cross volunteers are in every town and city across their countries. They are part of the communities they serve - they know the people and their needs. We thank them for their selfless and life-saving work and stand ready to support in any way we can.” AV content from Turkey: Photos Video AV content from Greece: Photos

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30/09/2020 | Article

Cash assistance in Turkey helps refugee families invest in language skills for a chance at a better life

Before the everlasting war in Syria, Sabit El Hacco used to grow wheat on his own farm. However, when he fled conflict in 2016 and arrived in Turkey, the conditions drastically changed for him and his family. El Hacco continued to work as a farmer but this time seasonally on other family’s lands, oftentimes struggling to make ends meet. “We used to cultivate our own fields back at home, growing wheat. Here, when there is an opportunity, we continue to work as farmers. However, there are no jobs in winter,” said El Hacco. Living with his family of 12 in a shanty house located in Ankara’s Beypazarı district, famous for its agriculture, El Hacco tries to do what he knows best to be able to provide for his 10 children. However, without speaking the local language, securing a stable income stands as a challenge. “Without speaking the language, the job opportunities are very limited. For this reason, I applied to the district governorship’s Turkish language course,” said El Hacco. El Hacco began receiving monthly cash assistance from Turkish Red Crescent through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme in coordination with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and funded by the EU. It allowed Sabit to focus on learning the local language and re-establishing his life in Turkey without worrying about his family’s day-to-day needs. “We wouldn’t be able to afford shelter to be under or even take care of our children without Kızılaykart,” said El Hacco. “ESSN means being free of debts, having a shelter, having a life to us,” he adds. More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme Funded by the European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent are providing monthly cash assistance via debit cards to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey under the ESSN programme. This is the largest humanitarian programme in the history of the EU and the largest programme ever implemented by the IFRC. ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, they receive 120 Turkish Lira (18 euros), enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. *This story was originally published on Turkish Red Crescent’s kizilaykart.org website and adapted by the IFRC. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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16/09/2020 | Article

Giving back after receiving help through difficult times: Syrian refugee offers helping hand to vulnerable people

"Yardim seven ol" means "be someone who loves helping" in Turkish. This is a mantra that Kevser, a Syrian refugee in Turkey, lives by. While trying to rebuild her own life after fleeing conflict in Syria, she works as a volunteer at the Turkish Red Crescent to help vulnerable people in the community. Like the rest of the world, COVID-19 has had a severe impact on Kevser and her family, as well as many other refugees who are particularly vulnerable. Spending three months in lockdown, her husband was not able to work and their debts ballooned. They were able to help pay their debts through cash assistance from the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), which provides monthly cash assistance to more than 1.7 million refugees in Turkey, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC. Additional cash assistance over the last two months was provided to families, like Kevser’s to help ease the socio-economic burden brought on by COVID-19. However, this hasn’t stopped her from helping refugees like her and other people in need in the community – it has only helped fuel her. Kevser has been a volunteer at the Turkish Red Crescent’s Community Center, funded by the EU, in Ankara’s Altındağ district for two years, visiting vulnerable households, informing people in need about available resources and referring them to related services when necessary. “We are giving a range of seminars, such as understanding the law in Turkey, their rights, how to go to a hospital, family and children’s health, and the available in-kind assistance for those in need,” Kevser said. Kevser’s volunteerism started back in Syria when she saw the unfolding violence around her in Damascus. She received first aid training and worked in hospitals while training others to become first responders. “I wanted to do something for people, for whomever got wounded,” said Kevser. Kevser and her family decided to leave Syria in 2015 when a bomb landed on their home. “We had a beautiful life in Syria. I had my own business in Damascus. My kids were going to school, my husband was working. We lost everything during the war. We came to Turkey and started from zero,” Kevser said, adding: “It was a hard decision that we made for our children.” Starting a life from scratch, finding a job while still learning the language in a foreign country was tough for her family. The support from the Turkish Red Crescent – both through the ESSN cash assistance and language training in the community centres, became a lifeline. “The assistance has been crucial for us to pay the rent and bills, as my husband is not able to find jobs all the time,” she said. “Without assistance, our life would be very difficult. Turkish Red Crescent changed our life. Iattended courses, became more active, I feel powerful,” Kevser added. Learning the local language changed everything in her life, Kevser says. Her relationship with her neighbours improved, she attended vocational courses, she was able to go to the hospital on her own. It also gave her a chance to give back to the Turkish community as a volunteer. "God willing, I will work, everything will be better," she said. ESSN is providing cash to the most vulnerable refugee families living in Turkey. Every month, more than 1.7 million refugees receive 120 Turkish Lira (13.5 euros) via prepaid debit cards, enabling them to decide for themselves how to cover essential needs like rent, transport, bills, food, and medicine. Turkish Red Crescent’s Community Centres support Syrian refugees and host communities to increase livelihoods, resilience and self-reliance, provide community-based health and first aid and give psychosocial support. Centres are funded by European Union Regional Trust Fund (EUTF) in Response to the Syrian Crisis, the MADAD Fund. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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24/08/2020 | Article

Engaging 1.7 million refugees in the face of COVID-19: Lessons from Turkey

By Lotte Ruppert COVID-19 does not discriminate, but the pandemic has disproportionately impacted certain vulnerable communities. Migrants and refugees face particularly large risks, due to language barriers, limited access to public services and a larger reliance on informal labour. Each has diverse perceptions, fears and opinions that we, as a humanitarian community, must address if we want to see this pandemic end. For Turkey, a country that hosts the largest refugee population in the world (over 4 million from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran), this presents a unique challenge. How do you engage people with diverse languages, cultures and communication preferences, all while adhering to strict movement restrictions to curb the pandemic? Despite the impressive efforts from governmental and humanitarian actors, our impact assessment from April 2020 showed that almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of refugee households did not feel like they were receiving enough reliable information about COVID-19. In response, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC have ramped up their efforts to listen and engage with refugees in Turkey during the COVID-19 outbreak. Here are three lessons we learned about how to engage with communities at a large scale through the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), the largest cash programme globally. Lesson 1: Use a wide variety of communication channels (Photos: Turkish Red Crescent) Everyone communicates differently. In ESSN, we rely on a range of different channels to allow people to speak with us in a way that they prefer and trust, including Facebook, regular SMSs and our toll-free Call Centre, where all operators have been trained to respond to COVID-19 related concerns and to provide hygiene advice or updates related to ESSN. But these remote communication channels are not enough. Refugees in Turkey have expressed their preference to share more sensitive concerns and complaints during private face-to-face conversations. Our nine Service Centres, spread across Turkey, have remained fully operational in order to provide information and support to people during the COVID-19 outbreak, with robust measures to ensure the safety of both its staff and visitors. This approach has been crucial to building trust. Lesson 2: Do not ignore rumours “I have an ESSN card but I saw on Facebook that my monthly cash assistance will soon be ended. What is the reason for that?” asked a refugee recently via our call centre. This “fear rumour” reflects the anxieties of refugees living in Turkey that ESSN may end. Another refugee family shared: “We are currently receiving ESSN cash assistance, but we have seen on YouTube that Turkish Red Crescent will now also give us rent assistance due to the impact of COVID-19”. This is a clear “wish rumour”, reflecting the hope of refugees for more support during these difficult times. The spread of such misinformation and rumours has always been a challenge for ESSN. But we learned that during the COVID-19 pandemic – a time of increased insecurity and stress – it is even more important for us to monitor the appearance and spread of misinformation. The best defence is to prevent rumours before they start. We share regular information updates, getting accurate, trusted information into people’s hands before rumours have a chance to emerge. When rumours and misinformation do surface, we quickly counter false stories with verified information and ensure the news stories or posts are removed online. We encourage the people we work for to participate too by sharing verified, trustworthy information within their community. Lesson 3: Responding to incoming questions, feedback and complaints alone is not enough. Reach out proactively to the most vulnerable households (Photos: Turkish Red Crescent) While actively reaching out to every one of the millions of refugees living in Turkey is practically impossible, Turkish Red Crescent has made thousands of outbound calls, contacting the most vulnerable households. This includes families required not to leave their homes for some weeks due to a mandatory curfew, including anyone over 65 as well as people with disabilities. This proactive approach enabled people to share all their questions and concerns with us, including sensitive issues or requests for additional support. Depending on the specific needs and concerns raised, Turkish Red Crescent has referred some of these people to other services, such as the national COVID-19 emergency hotline, the social assistance services provided by the Turkish Government, and specialized services from other humanitarian actors, including protection actors. Conclusion In Turkey, now more than ever, we must continue to build more meaningful relationships with communities and act on people’s concerns and suggestions. COVID-19 has challenged the way we as a humanitarian sector work, but it has also allowed us to find more innovative solutions to listen to refugees and respond to their needs. More about the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Home to more than 4 million refugees, Turkey hosts more refugees than any other country in the world. Most of them are Syrians, fleeing a conflict that has been ongoing for nine years. With funding from the European Union, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are able to provide monthly cash assistance to the most vulnerable families through the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN). Over 1.7 million refugees benefit from this assistance, enabling them to cover some of their basic needs, including food, rent and utilities, every month. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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19/08/2020 | Press release

World Humanitarian Day: One million masks produced by Syrian and Turkish volunteers, uniting forces against COVID-19

Ankara, Turkey (19 August 2020): Syrian refugees and Turkish people are coming together to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Turkey and around the world. Since the pandemic began, over 120 volunteers and community members across Turkey have mobilized to produce more than 1.2 million masks to help people protect themselves from COVID-19. Since 2015, Turkish Red Crescent, has been playing a crucial role in bringing Turkish and Syrian people together through its 16 community centres which 15 are them financed by the European Union. These centres are increasing livelihood opportunities, providing community-based health and first aid, giving psychosocial support. Nearly 251,805 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Turkey since March, but cases are now lower since a spike in April. Although restrictions have begun to ease in the country, masks remain mandatory to help curb new infections. Through the sewing courses offered in the community centres, refugee and Turkish communities began producing masks after seeing the massive demand for personal protective equipment. The mask production first started in Gaziantep, one of the most important textile manufacturing centres in Turkey and expanded quickly to other cities. Volunteers are also producing masks specifically for people with disabilities. The masks have a transparent front, which helps people who are deaf-mute communicate easily. Turkish Red Crescent has sent masks and PPE items to 40 countries including Georgia, Uganda, Tajikistan and many others since the pandemic started. Around 250,000 people receive support from the Turkish Red Crescent community centres every year with the support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and funding from the European Union as part of its refugee response in Turkey.

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04/08/2020 | Article

IFRC provides largest single-cash transfer to respond to the socio-economic needs amid COVID-19

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact around the world, including a major economic gap that many families are struggling to overcome. For refugees, COVID-19 is only exacerbating already existing vulnerabilities, losing the little income they earn and forcing them to cut down on food, medicine and other basic needs.A survey conducted by Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) and IFRC among 500 refugees showed that 70 per cent lost their livelihoods since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Turkey. This, combined with almost 80 per cent reported an increase in expenses, had left them with the frequently referred option of borrowing money to meet their basic needs.In order to address the COVID-19 socio-economic impact, more than 1.7 million refugees living in Turkey are receiving additional cash assistance through European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) implemented by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the TRC. This marks the largest single cash transfer in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement’s history, totalling EUR 46.4 million. Each family will receive an additional 1,000 Turkish Lira, approximately EUR 128. This is not an added grant, rather reallocated funds from the existing ESSN budget, funded by the EU.This is part of the Federation-wide emergency appeal for 1,9 billion Swiss francs to help the world’s most vulnerable communities halt the spread of COVID-19 and recover from its effects.“Because of the coronavirus, our expenses have increased for water, electricity and cleaning products,” said Hanan, a Syrian refugee who fled the war to come to Turkey in 2014. “The Kizilaykart helps me with house expenses, such as food, cleaning materials and other expenses.”“We are mentally exhausted… This period has exhausted us,” added one refugee receiving support from the ESSN.The additional cash assistance has taken place over June and July, followed by a regular quarterly cash top-up in August, enabling vulnerable refugee families to overcome the constraints imposed by COVID-19 during this difficult transition period.“Many people are in survival mode - living hand to mouth during COVID-19. This cash assistance has been a lifeline, allowing them to provide for themselves and their families,” said Jonathan Brass, IFRC’s operations manager for the ESSN in Turkey.“Cash, particular in times like COVID-19, provides immediate and flexible aid for families to prioritize their needs. It gives them a sense of security, certainty and confidence that their children will not go hungry.”Cash assistance stands as one of the most efficient ways to support vulnerable communities due to its quick, safe and reliable delivery. Because the cash is being sent to refugees via the digital banking system, it also limits the risk of infection to those we serve. Additionally, cash increases investments in local markets, supports host communities which may also negatively affected by COVID-19 and give freedom and flexibility to families to meet their own individual needs.Learn more about ESSN here.This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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30/07/2020 | Article

World Friendship Day: Turkish and refugee children share letters and drawings with the ones they love

COVID-19 may be preventing us from connecting with the ones we love the way we want to, but it has allowed us to appreciate and treasure each other that much more.This World Friendship Day, we asked Turkish, Syrian and Yemenis children in 5 different cities to connect with their best friend by sending them a drawing or letter. Here is what they said. Omar's letter: "Mylovelyfriend, Hello, howareyou? Ihaven’tseenyoufortwomonths. How isyourfamily? Whichplacesdidyougoto? Whatdidyoudoduringtheholidays? I amreadingQur’anandattendingsomecourses. IwatchTVandplayedwithmysiblingduringtheholidays. Imissedyousomuch.Youhavebeenmybestfriend.IlearnedTurkishfromyou.Youalwayshelpedmewithclassesatschool.Youareaverygoodperson.Thankyouforbeingmyfriend. Yourfriend, Ömer Arda's letter: "My dear friend, I’m so happy that I met such a person like you. You are a very good friend and you will be my friend forever. I wouldn’t know the real meaning of friendship without you. I love you most for this. I am proud of you so much that I don’t even need another friend. Because you have been my best friend. Always remember that I love you so much because I won’t forget you. Your dear friend." Zeyneb's letter: "Dear sister, Even if we weren’t born in the same territories, we don’t speak the same language, even if our skin colours are not the same... We smile together under the same sky and the same sun with our eyes full of love. With the most strong chord that bound us to each other, love and friendship. I love you my friend, my sister With love, Zeyneb" Enas' letter: "Friends are a gift from God. There are two kinds of friends. A good friend and a bad friend. The poorest person is the one who doesn’t have any friends. Roses die, irons can be broken but friendships never die and get broken. Finding the right friend with morals is important for my future. My friend, I hope my words get to you. You were my best friend to me but if there were no separation, I wouldn’t stop my friendship with you. You were the only friend who is noble and with whom I don’t want to separate. Some people say best friends are those who stay apart so that they can keep their friendship. I love you, my dear friend. Enas" Text on the drawing reads: A person who has no friend is a poor person (top left). The real friendships are like stars, they are only visible when there is darkness (top right). Roses, tulips and all the other flowers die eventually. Iron and steel get broken but stay strong. Friendships never die or get broken (bottom left). Friendship doesn't have to be about being close to each other, the important thing is hearts being close to each other (bottom right). Children across Turkey - some wearing a Syrian flag and others a Turkish flag, live happily together in while a migratory bird brings them balloons. (Drawing: Şuğra) Adnen's letter: "My dear friend Şuğra, I love you so much. I am giving you a present at this time. We spend a great time together. You are a sibling to me." The text on the drawing reads: "My friend, I love you, my dearest friend." (Drawing: Adnen) Letters written by Ahmed (L) and Efe (R) about the story of their friendship. (Photos: Ahmed, Efe ) Ahmed's letter: "To my dear friend, I love you very much. I’m having so much fun when I’m playing and talking with you. As our ancestors say, 'tell me about your friend and let me tell you who you are'. When I first met you, I hit your head with a ball. We used to fight but always make peace in the end. We always sat together since our first year at school. Our teacher would sometimes be angry at us, but we never got angry with each other. We were in the same classroom for 4 years, my dear friend Efe. I am so happy that we are friends. Ahmed" Efe's letter: "Hello Ahmet, Today, I am writing a letter to the person with whom I became friends after starting to live in a different city and neighbourhood. I mean, to you ?. Do you remember? Our friendship started after the football you were playing with hit my head ? Later we always ran after that football together with you. We also took our new friends with us. In our first year at school, we always sat together and shared our food. I even came to your house one night and we jumped on the bed until we get tired ?. We were getting along with each other so well. Maybe we understood each other better as we both came to a new city and atmosphere. I taught you folk dances and you taught me the soldier game. We still play when we are together. To whomever I told about the game, they liked it. In the game, everyone would hold their own hand. The one starting the game would sing the song ‘’Soldiers eat tomatoes, whom they want to shoot’’ Whoever is there when the song ends would choose someone and touch another one. The game used to go on until everyone is dismissed. Close friends could give life to each other. We always gave life to each other and tried to stay in the game. The fourth grade has ended. We will start at secondary school. You will go to imam hatip secondary school and I will go to another one. Maybe our schools are separated now, but we keep giving life to each other and staying in the game. Because we are getting along with each other so well. I’m happy that we met. You are a great friend. I didn’t know that a football hitting my head would let me meet my best friend. I hope we will play more football games in which we run after the same football with you. Take care of yourself. If you can’t, my all lives are yours, you know it! Goodbye… Your best friend, Efe " Two children, holding Syrian and Turkish flags, join hands while larger Turkish (left) and Syrian (right) flags are seen in this drawing. (Drawing: Emine) Emine's letter: "Hi, I hope you are fine. While writing this letter, I want to tell you that I miss you so much. You are not a foreigner but siblings to us. One doesn’t need to share the same blood tie to be siblings. Love is a feeling that doesn’t require a kindred ship or being born from the same mother and father. Friendship is so important. Please take care. Goodbye." Letter written by Mohammed in Turkish in an address to Emine is shown in this photo. (Photos: Mohammed) Mohammed's letter: "Hi Emine, First of all, I want you to know how happy I become while reading your letter. I also miss you so much. You are also our brothers and sisters. We love you so much. We are so happy to be with you. Please also take care, Cheers" Two stick girls are standing next to a building, label as "school" in Turkish in this drawing, accompanied by a heart-shaped eyes emoji on the right side. (Drawing: Rüyanaz) Rüyanaz's letter: "My dear friend Lima, I love you so much. Schools were closed. I missed you and my teacher very much. We used to play games and spend good time together. I hope coronavirus goes away and w ego back to our school. I love you my dear friend Lima. Take care of yourself. Kisses, hope to see you soon. Goodbye." Two girls holding flowers standing next to an apple tree while the sun is shining, birds fly by and a turtle wanders around flowers. (Drawing: Lima) Lima's letter: "Rüyanaz, I love you so much. You are my best friend at school. I loved you when I first saw you. I missed you, my school, my teacher and my friends so much. I hope coronavirus goes away and we go back to our school." Two girls are hugging each other in this drawing marked with the painter's name; Meysem at the bottom. (Drawing: Meysem) Meysem's letter: "I am writing a letter to Hatice with my all feelings. To my most beautiful, sweetest and honest friend. You are my relative and sister in humanity. I write all these words by being faithful to the beautiful says we spent together and our love. My friend Hatice, I want to tell you that you are so important to me. My papers are beautiful when they are filled with your name. We are friends forever." Two girls, sitting close to each other on a tree branch, watch birds fly by. (Drawing: Elif) Elif's letter: "Dear Syrian friend, First of all, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Elif Nur. I really love reading books and spending time with my friends. We may face some changes in our lives but this is the rule of life. We had experienced malice called COVID-19 and that led us to be separated from each other. However, I think friendship is about feeling that love in our hearts even if there is a distance between us. Please don’t forget this! Good and peaceful days will come one day for sure. I am hoping to see you in this beautiful and peaceful times. Your loving friend, Elif" Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are helping to normalize the lives of many refugees and host communities, including children, in Turkey. These children benefit from the Turkish Red Crescent Community Centres, funded by European Union Trust Fund MADAD, and some receive support from the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), funded by the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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06/07/2020 | Article

Call centre provides refugees in Turkey with vital information and support amid COVID-19

Seren Sabancı Keser, a 27-year-old call centre operator at Turkish Red Crescent, received a call from a refugee in need who could not go and receive his Kızılaykart (a prepaid debit card)– he was in hospital after showing COVID-19 symptoms. This debit card provides them with cash assistance to help meet their basic needs. This is just one of the many calls Seren has received over the past few months. Calls significantly increased after the COVID-19 pandemic was first confirmed in Turkey. “The numbers of call we received during the pandemic peaked in the past 3 months. Refugees have been affected socially, physically, financially, in every imaginable way, like the rest of the world. You understand the desperation of those who lost their jobs from their voice,” said Seren. Adapting to the COVID-19 response The Turkish Red Crescent call centre Seren works at has operators, speaking five different languages. She wears a headset microphone over her disposable face mask, offering support and information to the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey, the largest refugee-hosting country worldwide, amid strict measures taken against COVID-19. Seren responds to many calls from refugees receiving the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash assistance programme, jointly run by IFRC and Turkish Red Crescent. Shortly after the first COVID-19 case was reported in Turkey in mid-March, strict measures were introduced by the Turkish government in a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic in the country. Lockdown was introduced for those above 65 years and under 20 years old and inter-city travel restrictions and weekend curfews were imposed. Unlike many workplaces which had to stop their operations, the call centre quickly adapted by taking the necessary precautions. The workplace was immediately arranged to provide enough space between the desks according to social distance precautions, necessary protective equipment was provided, and alternative transportation choices were offered to the staff members. Seren underlined that the call centre played a key role in the lives of refugees when the pandemic first erupted in Turkey.“ As they can’t go out and everywhere is closed,” said Seren, adding that they never stopped receiving the calls. (Photo: Turkish Red Crescent) Growing humanitarian needs in the wake of COVID-19 Most of the calls Seren has received from refugees relate to loss of jobs and difficulties in meeting their essential needs such as food, hygiene items, rent and bills. “Most of the times people calling are saying they lost their jobs and if there will be additional help – if there are any food or hygiene packages that will be provided,” she said. A rapid assessmentconducted by IFRC and Turkish Red Crescentwith those who receive support through the ESSN programme, found that COVID-19 has deeply impacted vulnerable refugees. Almost 70 per cent of refugees surveyed lost their jobs and 78 per cent faced an increase in their expenses, according to the report. Providing two-way communication with refugee families despite COVID-19 Launched in November 2016, as a mechanism to enable two-way communication between humanitarian responders and affected communities, the call centre receives calls from refugees who benefit and want to benefit from ESSN. Apart from being the first responder to answer refugees’ questions and find solutions to refugees’ challenges, Seren and her colleagues also refer refugees to other types of assistance provided by Government Social Assistances Service and Turkish Red Crescent other units serving specific to refugees to ensure they get the support they need. Call centres also became a critical source of information on preventing and responding to COVID-19 cases. As part of steps to inform refugees about COVID-19, the call centre also replaced the call waiting tone with informative messages in five different languages, explaining hygiene rules and other kindsof preventive measures against the pandemic. “We encourage them to use masks all the time and refer to a medical institution or call the Ministry of Health hotline if they were in touch with a COVID-19 patient,” she said. This is not the first time Seren has worked with refugees. Thanks to her Arabic language skills and due to her calling to help others, she has been supporting refugees since the start of the Syrian refugee exodus. Seren says her work can be tiring as her thoughts don’t stop when she goes home in the evening. The possibility of helping more people is always in the back of her mind. “When we are having a busy day, the only thing in my mind is how I can receive more calls, help more people immediately,” Seren said. “Because there are many refugees in need of support.” This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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12/06/2020 | Article

Opinion: COVID-19 — it’s time to take cash to the next level

By Caroline Holt Jobs are being lost. The restrictions on movement that are keeping people safe from the coronavirus are often damaging or destroying their livelihoods and their ability to feed and care for their families. Around the world, the most vulnerable people are facing a stark and possibly deadly choice: Do they risk contracting COVID-19, or risk not feeding their families? As humanitarians, how can we help prevent families from having to make this impossible choice? In Turkey, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, or IFRC, and the Turkish Red Crescent surveyed some 500 Syrian refugees being supported by our programs. We found that 69% have lost their jobs, their expenses have skyrocketed, and their biggest concern is how they will feed themselves and their families. More than half of these households are borrowing money to cover their most basic needs — including food. Right now, vulnerable communities across the world need extra support quickly, safely, and reliably. Due to the scale of this crisis, there is a very diverse range of groups and individuals being badly affected, and their needs are equally diverse. We must be able to provide flexible support that can adapt to these different needs. Delivering cash to the people in most need and in close coordination with national social protection systems is the most appropriate way to respond to the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 around the world. We all know and talk about the benefits of cash, especially now in these difficult times. Yet the latest estimates suggest that less than 20% of humanitarian relief is currently delivered through cash programming. The immense impact of COVID-19 is a wake-up call for us to change this. There is no better time to tap into the power of cash as a critical link between economies and households, and it can become a lifeline for millions of people globally. The current pandemic has shown us that without health, there is no economy. It also shows us that without access to financial support, it is harder for people to reduce health risks or recover their health once lost. "Giving cash gives people the choice of prioritizing their own needs and contributing to their communities." Giving cash to people facing crisis helps address a wide range of needs — from rent, food, and education to hygiene items that help prevent diseases from spreading or encourage access to health care. It allows them to prepare, prioritize, and take care of their families, based on their own preferences and decisions. By alleviating the stresses on families struggling to meet their basic needs, we can help them avoid negative coping mechanisms that could put them at further risk of COVID-19. Cash programming allows us to respond rapidly and at scale while still protecting the people we serve, our staff, and our volunteers in communities around the world. Through the European Union-funded Emergency Social Safety Net program, Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are providing monthly cash assistance to more than 1.7 million refugees. Transferring funds through this existing infrastructure can allow us to rapidly respond and adapt to current needs and provide additional assistance when needed at a massive scale. In the Africa region, IFRC is supporting at least 20 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to deliver cash through popular mechanisms such as mobile money to provide immediate support to families. The cash will help people invest in and strengthen local economies — a key to their road to recovery — as well as jump-start livelihoods when the restriction on movement allows. For cash programming to work effectively and be accountable to the people our sector serves, we must be embedded at the community level. More than ever before, the challenges faced by international organizations in deploying on the ground during the COVID-19 pandemic highlight the need for an ever-increasing localized approach. Because of their everyday work, volunteers know — with or without immediate physical access to communities — which people are most vulnerable, most at risk of falling through the gaps of existing social safety nets. Despite the current sense of urgency, the humanitarian sector should resist the temptation to replace or duplicate national governments’ social protection systems but rather collectively invest in existing systems and help to reinforce them. We must advocate to make social protection systems more flexible, relevant, and inclusive. Ever since the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, the importance of localization and of scaling up the use of cash, the need for change, and the necessity of innovation have been at the top of the humanitarian sector’s agenda. Nothing about the way humanitarians are working and operating during this pandemic is business as usual. We are having to reinvent the way we respond in this crisis and set aside the traditional modes and methods of support. More than ever, we need to work with affected populations and acknowledge that they are best placed to lead their own path toward a new normal. Giving cash gives people the choice of prioritizing their own needs and contributing to their communities. With all these advantages available through cash programming, it is time for humanitarians to take cash to the next level. *This opinion piece was originally published on Devex.com on June 12, 2020. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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28/04/2020 | Article

5 ways that cash assistance has transformed humanitarian response to refugees in Turkey

Many people affected by humanitarian crises think their priority needs are not being met by humanitarian aid. Cash assistance is one critical approach that is helping responders better put the needs and capacities of affected people at the heart of humanitarian action.For the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, it has become an integral part of our work. Most recently, with funding from the European Union, the Turkish Red Crescent and IFRC are implementing a unique cash-assistance programme in Turkey. It enables more than 1.7 million most vulnerable refugees to meet their basic needs and rebuild their lives. The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme provides a blueprint for how cash assistance can be better used in the future. 1 - It is people-centred (Photo: Turkish Red Crescent) According to a Ground Truth Solutions survey, almost half of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh sold in-kind assistance offered to them so that they could use the money to purchase goods and services they need. Cash puts an end to aid being limited to the goods and services that humanitarian organizations deliver and gives people the freedom to spend the cash on what they need most. Providing affected populations with cash means more than addressing their true needs, it also means dignity. Having an option to buy the things they need in a shop rather than waiting in a queue for goods also gives the aid recipients a sense of normality that has been lacking from their lives due to conflict. “The cash assistance is granting us freedom of choice and returning a degree of dignity to our lives.” -A refugee receiving cash support from ESSN (WFP report from 2018). Cash assistance also offers them the most important opportunity, having control over their own recovery. Refugees who take ESSN cash assistance are less likely to consult to negative coping strategies like reducing the quality and quantity of the food consumption, getting into debt and taking their children out of school. 2 - It’s more cost-effective and can ultimately, reach more people (Photo: Turkish Red Crescent) Delivering cash assistance often costs less than delivering in-kind assistance thus reaching more people in need. How much money is required to manage an operation? How much money is required to transport and store aid in a warehouse? By taking advantage of digital payment systems (like debit cards and SMS) cash-based assistance can greatly reduce costs spent on logistics, transportation and human resources. Compared to the previous humanitarian basic needs assistance provided, the ESSN resulted in significant reductions in administrative costs, leading to at least 90 per cent of all ESSN funding going into the hands of those in need and reaching as many as 1.7 million people. 3 - It empowers local economies and communities (Photo: WFP) Supporting people in need with cash also means supporting the host population. As the migration deeply affects those seeking safety, it also creates a completely new situation for the hosting community. Use of cash-based assistance can help people in need to support local markets. This can greatly reduce possible tensions, increase support for humanitarian aid from locals and spark the first steps of integration. Although there is room for development, the ESSN has the potential to influence social cohesion between refugees and host communities, according to a WFP study. About half of the refugees who attended focus group discussions said that they had established good relations with their Turkish neighbours. 4 - It is easy to deliver (Photo: Turkish Red Crescent) Conflicts, natural disasters or health emergencies - each bring with them difficult conditions to work in, including challenges in access. If markets are not too weak or supply is sufficient, cash enables assistance to vulnerable people in extraordinary times. Operating under the current conditions of COVID-19 poses many challenges, particularly with restricted or forbidden movement of goods and resources. Sending cash to refugees digitally limits the risk of infection to those we serve as well as host communities and our frontline workers. 5 - It enables a more effective, efficient, and transparent humanitarian sector (Photo: Turkish Red Crescent) Cash assistance ensures humanitarian organizations are more accountable to both donors and affected people. It increases the transparency of operations by showing how much aid actually reaches the target population. It also addresses people’s true needs as it gives them the ability to decide what they require. In April, Turkish Red Crescent’s ESSN hotline answered 1.2 million calls, sent more than 1.3 million SMSs and reached out to more than 85,000 refugees thorough its multilingual Facebook page. ESSN monitoring data indicates that the awareness amongst refugees of the ESSN and its application procedures is very high and only a small proportion of refugees lack information on the ESSN at any point in time. The use of easily verifiable demographic criteria satisfies the donors need for transparency and accountability, while also ensuring that refugees themselves have full information on why they are (not) included in the ESSN program. --- As ESSN’s unique approach and scale shows cash is people-centric, makes the most out of limited budgets, increases the speed and flexibility of the humanitarian response, improves local economies, reaches the most vulnerable even in insecure environments and enables us all to be more accountable to the people we serve. Cash doesn’t replace all humanitarian services. However, under the right circumstances, cash offers a massive opportunity for us to put communities’ at the centre of our response. This article covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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