Here’s what cash assistance means to refugee children in Turkey

Photos: Deniz Akkuş/WFP
Photos: Deniz Akkuş/WFP

Almost half of the 3.5 million refugees currently living in Turkey are children. Just like their parents, these refugee children are struggling to build new lives, often amid hardship. For them, and to find even little things can turn a grey day into a golden one.
Here are some of the children whose lives suddenly became happier after their families started receiving monthly cash assistance through the EU-funded Emergency Social Safety Net, ESSN for short.
Over a million refugees are now receiving support through the ESSN. The programme provides cash to the most vulnerable refugees every month. For these families, it helps restore a sense of normalcy.

A toy can mean the world to a child. All of Aysha’s toys were left behind when her family fled to Gaziantep province three years ago from Aleppo, Syria. Her parents gave her this doll as a gift after they received the ESSN assistance.

Amir loves the stories his father tells about their former life in Syria, where they had a garlic production business. The war forced them to abonden it and take refugee in Şanlıurfa. Now they buy garlic in shops, just like everyone else. Thanks to ESSN, they can afford the food that reminds them of home.

The first time their family received cash through their ESSN card, Busra and Mariam’s parent’s went out to buy them a treat- new clothes to wear during the Eid Al-Adha holiday. The girls were thrilled.

Sıdra’s father walks the streets of Kahramanmaraş, a city in southern Turkey, collecting recyclables from garbage that he can sell. His earnings didn’t scretch to paying the daily bus fare for his daughter to get to the nearest school. But with the help of the ESSN, he can now pay both for transport and school materials.

Ahmad is the youngest of his family, who fled the war in Syria and took refugee in Gaziantep. One of his favorite foods, corn, used to be a rare treat. With the help of ESSN, buying nutritious food for Ahmad and his two brothers is much easier now.

On a cold winter morning, Mohammed was not happy to be drgged along with his mother to the ATM machine to withdraw ESSN cash assistance. The bagel his mother bought for him changed his mood immediately.

Riim, her six siblings and her mother found shelter in an abandened shop in Şanlıurfa. They could barely pay for the electricity and for food before they received their ESSN card, which is now their main source of income.



Luay’s parents had built themselves a room in a cave in Şanlıurfa. With the cash they receive from the ESSN, it is now easier to look after Luay, who has special needs.



Hatice is an eight-year-old Turkmen girl who always dreamt of having coloring pencils like her classmates at school. Her dream came true when, the day after receiving her ESSN card, her mother showed up at home with a new set of pens.
Ten-year-old Ihlas is the oldest son of a family of five. His parents were struggling to make a living with his father’s unstable income so they were thinking about taking Ihlas out of school so he could work to support the family. The money the family received from the ESSN helped the parents keep him in school.

Three out of every five people supported by ESSN are children. By November, the number of ESSN beneficiaries under the age of 18 had reached over 650,000- some 61 percent of the total ESSN beneficiaries. The ESSN programme is run by the World Food Programme and the Turkish Red Crescent, with the help of the Turkish government. After its first year, the programme now assists over a million refugees in Turkey. Learn more about the ESSN.