Over 1.3 million refugees benefit from Turkish Red Crescent
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
More than 1.3 million refugees in Turkey are benefiting from debit cards issued by the Turkish Red Crescent and supported by the U.N.-backed Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) program.
Speaking to state-run Anadolu Agency, Red Crescent head Kerem Kınık said they have been working to respond to humanitarian crises and alleviate human suffering since the start of the Syrian civil war seven years ago.
“The ESSN, which is the largest humanitarian multi-purpose cash program globally, is one of the projects we have carried out for the refugees in Turkey in partnership with World Food Program or WFP,” Kınık said on May 9.
Launched in late 2016 as part of the ESSN humanitarian assistance program, the Kızılay Card is a special debit card for refugees registered by the regional migration office directorate. Under the program, each refugee is given 120 Turkish liras ($28) a month, and they can withdraw money from state lender Halkbank’s ATMs.
According to Kınık, to date over 1.3 million people and 223,000 households have benefitted from the Kızılay card, but they hope to go higher.
“Our initial target was to reach 1.3 million and we have already achieved it. Now the new targeted number of beneficiaries is 1.5 million,” he said.
Kınık added that the program is currently set to be implemented through the end of January 2019, but talks to extend it for two more years are ongoing in Brussels.
“This is a success story. We are working to systematize this success story and make it widespread across the world,” he said.
According to U.N. figures, Turkey currently hosts the highest number of refugees in the world: 3.9 million people, including 3.5 million Syrians.
Syria has been locked in a devastating conflict since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.
While 230,000 refugees live in camps located in Turkey’s southeast, the majority of Syrian refugees in the country live in cities and towns across the country.
Muhannad Hadi, U.N. World Food Program regional director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and East Europe, told Anadolu Agency that the program is extremely proud of the ESSN.
Hadi also hailed the WFP’s partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent and the Ankara government.
“Thanks to this strong relationship and partnership, now we have a very successful project in Turkey. We’ve reached our goals but we’re actually going beyond them,” he said.
According to WFP figures, this March the ESSN assisted over one million vulnerable refugees around Turkey. So far, more than 2 million refugees have submitted applications to the ESSN.
Since 2012, the WFP has injected $720 million into the Turkish economy through cash-based transfers, including $130 million in the first quarter of this year, the U.N. body says.