UNICEF-SASF joint winter cash support programme helps vulnerable households in Kirikhan

“We use this amount to pay for rent, utility bills and medical diapers for Saddam who cannot use the washroom due to his impairment”

UNICEF
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02 June 2021

The cold winter months bring increased burdens, as many vulnerable families struggle to meet their basic needs. With the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative economic implications, the situation became ever more critical in the winter months of 2020-2021 for many vulnerable refugee and Turkish children.

UNICEF has been implementing a cash-based winter assistance programme since 2015 for the most vulnerable refugee and host families in Turkey. The programme targets Syrian and other refugee families, as well as a small number of highly vulnerable Turkish families. In this programme selected families receive a one-off unrestricted cash payment to use it as they see fit to help them meet their children’s basic needs.

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The Director of Kirikhan Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundation (SASF) Abdullah Karaman explains that the “programme beneficiaries are very happy and grateful for the one-off winter cash assistance, which supports them during winter months when the need is at greatest”.

Since 2017, when the programme was first launched in the district of Kirikhan, located in Hatay province near the Turkish border with Syria, UNICEF and the SASF have reached a total of 38,100 individuals, including over 17,000 children. In the 2020-2021 winter season, the SASF is delivering assistance to 1,600 households, or around 6,600 individuals, including around 2,700 vulnerable children, with winter cash assistance to help families meet their immediate and urgent needs.

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The Haciali family, a beneficiary of the winter programme in Kirikhan, fled Syria due to the conflict and managed to come to Turkey, seeking a safer and better life. Yet the family has faced several challenges since they arrived in Turkey, including younger brother Saddam’s medical condition. Saddam, who is currently in the sixth grade, needs regular treatment for his disability, which is only available in the hospital in the neighboring district of Reyhanli. Saddam’s brother, Faiz, explains that “due to the financial constraints and difficulty to find suitable transportation, we had to give up the treatment of Saddam, and his situation became worse, unfortunately, there is nothing I can do.” Due to the family’s economic situation and also the difficult health condition of the head of household, Faiz, the family relied on the irregular earnings of the older brothers Bilal and Esad.

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 “The winter assistance we received is very helpful because of the limited income we have. We use the amount to pay for rent, utility bills and medical diapers for Saddam, who cannot use the washroom due to his impairment,” Faiz added when asked about the impact of the winter assistance programme on his family.

Through the SASF programme, the family was provided with 1,000TL as winter cash assistance. They came to know about the programme thanks to the Syrian neighbourhood's representative. Following the family’s application, they were interviewed and assessed by the SASF team. The family was also informed about the Syrian Information Center established by SASF.

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Through 16 Syrian neighbourhood representatives and their 14 assistants, the programme identifies the vulnerable Syrian families and assist these families to be enrolled in the programme.

Regardless of having received assistance in the past, any family that meets the vulnerability criteria is entitled to benefit from the yearly cash assistance of the programme. SASF Director Karaman also highlighted that, “particularly for this year, due to the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic conditions, most of the Syrian families have been facing more challenges in terms of accessing the labour market which resulted in a lack of regular income to afford their daily expenses. Thus, we observed that this cash assistance is highly needed by the families to cover the costs of their rent, bills, debts and to meet their immediate and basic needs, such as food, hygiene items, clothes and other household items.”

Fatma, Saddam’s mother, also shared with us her thoughts about this programme.  “Although the amount we receive is not sufficient to cover all our immediate needs, we would like to continue receiving such assistance because it helps us to cover important items like the rent and to pay some of our debts, also Faiz can now take Saddam to the doctor and for me this is priceless.”