Isaf and her family left their home in Hama, northwestern Syria, without even locking the door. In their quiet little village people didn’t lock their homes if they were just going away for a short time. Isaf thought they would be back in a month, as soon as the situation settled down.
She and her husband decided to go away with their children for a while because fighting in the area was stopping everyone in the farming village from working the land and growing food.
“We started to face serious food shortages. I hardly found anything for my children to eat. Then conflicts became even more frequent and that was the last straw — we fled to Turkey with almost all the people of the village. Safety is the most important thing in life.”
The journey from Hama to Syrian-Turkish border was not easy. First, they walked for miles. Then they arrived to the trucks they arranged but there were conflicts in some places on the road and they kept hiding. Finally, they arrived at the Cilvegözü border entry in Hatay.
Freedom of Choice with E-Food Card
In a month, they moved to the refugee camp in Kahramanmaraş. By the end of 2012 and early 2013, some aid agencies started providing food in the camps. Isaf was happy that her family had something to eat, even though the food was sometimes very spicy so the children couldn’t eat it.
Isaf will never forget the day they received food assistance from WFP, through an electronic food card: “It was just before Ramadan. As a mother, I was so pleased to be able to buy food that my children love from the supermarket and cook whenever we want. It was the best Eid-al Fitr after a long time. I started to cook Syrian food again.”
WFP, in partnership with Turkish Red Crescent, assists refugees in camps across the southeast of Turkey with an e-food card. There is a monthly allowance of TRY 50 per person to buy food in participating shops. The Turkish Government provides an additional TRY 50 on a separate card for food and non-food items.
The e-food card gives beneficiaries choice and some independence. Isaf says that she is the one deciding how to spend the assistance and going to the supermarket for shopping. She usually buys milk, egg, yogurt, rice, butter, oil, sugar, tea, lentil and vegetables. If there is any money left, she buys the ingredients for sarma (stuffed vine lives). “We have nine children and they all love it!”
Thanks to sustained e-food card assistance since 2012, some 91 percent of households have acceptable food consumption. Monitoring shows that refugees in camps generally have diverse diets; and women are involved in decisions on the use of assistance in 84.4 percent of households. Currently, Kahramanmaraş camp’s population is almost 14,000.
The Ones Who Stayed Behind
Isaf still worries about her mother and father who could not flee Syria due to their age. She calls them often to make sure that they are okay. They told her that the village is all in ruins and they moved to central Hama. They had 400 olive, pomegranate and fig trees in the village but now they are all gone. “I miss my parents. As soon as the peace is secured, I want to go back home. Syria is my homeland, my soil.”
Isaf and her family are among the 130,000 refugees in Turkey who received food assistance from WFP, thanks to generous contributions from Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hainan Airlines Group, Japan, Kuwait, Mexico, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, USAID.