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Syrian Refugees in Turkey

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The sound of shelling rumbles in the background from across the border at this tent camp near the town of Yayladagi, in the Hatay region of Turkey.  Syrian refugees here receive electronic food vouchers in an “e-card” programme run by WFP and the Turkish Red Crescent

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Mother-of-five Umm Munir with her 10-month-old daughter Reyyan has been in the camp for eight months. She’s one of around 200,000 Syrians who fled to Turkey to escape the fighting.

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The Turkish government has provided refugees with heating, cooking facilities, washing machines and even satellite TVs. The voucher system means that refugees can buy their own food and prepare it when and where they want.

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In the pink – Jihan, who’s eight years old, poses in front of her tent. Most tents house eight or nine people.

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Not all Syrian refugees in Turkey are housed in tents. The authorities have converted this disused tobacco warehouse in Altinozu, Hatay, into accommodation. It’s dark and dingy, but the units are well-heated and dry. Thirteen-year-old Mohammad has been to fetch locally made Arabic bread using the family’s WFP e-card.

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Hanna Mahmoud, 30, from a village near Lattakia, is happy to have found mallow leaves in the local shops so she can cook mulukhiyeh, a dark green, slightly slimy stew which is a much-loved Syrian delicacy. “It’s a very Syrian thing and now it’s available in the markets here,” she said. “I really missed it.” 

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Hanna’s mother, Hayat, 65, is fast asleep. “She’s had lots of operations and the hospital here gave her a wheelchair. She’s crippled but she’s getting worse,” she said

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The journey was difficult for her mother. They waited 15 days on the border before crossing into Turkey. “It’s not a question of regrets or not. I left because of the shelling – I was afraid for my children. I want to go back but for the same reason I can’t go back unless the fighting dies down.

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Hanna’s husband, Fadi, is not an artist. But he’s drawn a horse on the side of their unit. “It’s freedom,” he said. They have three children, aged six, five and one.

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Yacoub Kantar, a mechanic, is shopping in Yayladagi for a family of 12. In this town, 15 shops are taking part in the programme, including butchers’ and bakeries.

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The WFP e-card provides a monthly budget of 80 Turkish Lira (US$45) per person to spend in local shops.

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1.      Surrounded by shopping, 5-year-old Reyyan from Idlib sits on a park bench in Yayladagi. Her mother received her twice-monthly electronic transfer of money to her WFP/Red Crescent e-card and has been shopping in the town for supplies, including oil, courgettes and tomatoes.

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The e-card voucher system means that money is spent in local shops and boosts the local economy. This family bakery has seen its business triple. They began baking Arabic flat bread to cater to the taste of the Syrian refugees, and they now also deliver to the camps.

The sound of shelling rumbles in the background from across the border at this tent camp near the town of Yayladagi, in the Hatay region of Turkey.  Syrian refugees here receive electronic food vouchers in an “e-card” programme run by WFP and the Turkish Red Crescent.