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Turkey is an upper middle income country with an economy ranked 17th largest in the world. With international borders including Iraq and Syria, Turkey has had a greater influx of people fleeing conflict than any other country in the world and in 2018 hosts 3.9 million refugees, the vast majority of them Syrians. Most refugees live in communities, but there are still around 216,000 living in camps.

The influx of refugees has created increased pressure on the host communities, straining the local markets and infrastructure.

Registered Syrians have access to healthcare, education, social services and the labour market. However, while legislation allows Syrians to apply for work permits, it remains difficult for most refugees to find formal employment, forcing many to move within Turkey to areas where they can secure informal work. This kind of work is low paid; many refugees live in poor-quality housing and struggle to earn the minimum wage.

The World Food Programme (WFP) works in Turkey to assist refugees, both those living in camps and those in host communities. The Turkish people and institutions have so far been at the forefront of the emergency response, placing a significant burden on Turkey’s own economic resources. In addition to helping refugees through cash transfers that are spent in local businesses, WFP is helping the Turkish economy by purchasing the bulk of food commodities for the Syrian Regional Emergency Operation from Turkey.

In September 2016, WFP signed the largest humanitarian deal in European history: a €348 million contract with the European Union to roll out a programme known as the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN). ESSN programme in Turkey contributes of the goals laid out in the Grand Bargain. Partnering with the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO), WFP has joined forces with the Turkish Red Crescent and the Government of Turkey to lessen the suffering of over a million refugees in Turkey and help to restore a sense of normal life to those living outside camps. EU’s most recent contribution was made in December 2017, equalling to 650 million to fund the programme until January 2019.


78.6 million
3.9 million
refugees, mainly from Syria, live in Turkey
3.7 million
refugees live in local communities

What the World Food Programme is doing in Turkey

  • Helping refugees outside camps

    WFP provides cash assistance to the most vulnerable refugees living in host communities. In partnership with the Turkish Red Crescent, WFP is providing monthly cash transfers that people can use to shop for food, clothes or medicines; or to pay rent and utility bills. More than a million people are supported under the ESSN Programme which will continue in 2018.
  • Helping Syrian refugees in camps

    WFP works with the Turkish Red Crescent to help provide food assistance to 150,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees still living in camps in Turkey. Starting in October 2012, the organizations rolled out an e-food card programme that adds a monthly balance to families’ debit cards so that they can buy food from local shops.
  • Supporting Turkey's economy

    Since 2012, WFP has injected US$ 549 million into the Turkish economy through cash-based transfers. WFP also has a history of large-scale commodity procurement in Turkey to support its global operations. More than US$ 1.68 billion worth of commodities have been procured in Turkey since 2011. Almost two thirds of these commodities have been used for emergency food assistance in WFP’s emergency response in Iraq, Syria and the region, including surrounding countries hosting refugees.

Turkey news releases and publications

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Partners and Donors

Achieving Zero Hunger is the work of many. Our work in Turkey is made possible by the support and collaboration of our partners and donors, including:



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