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Impact of the COVID-19 Outbreak on Syrian Refugees in Turkey: Results from Rapid Needs Assessment conducted in Istanbul, Izmir, Manisa, Gaziantep, Kilis and Reyhanli, April 2020

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Introduction

Global outbreak

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. As of 20 April, according to the WHO, across all continents, there are over 2 million confirmed cases with the USA, Spain and Italy most affected. Due to the nature of transmission, the number of suspected cases increases exponentially on a daily basis.

COVID-19 in Turkey

The Government of Turkey (GoT) has reported its first case on 11 March 2020. As of 30 April, the country has recorded almost 120,000 confirmed cases. The spread among Turkish cities is demonstrated in Figure 1.

Since the outbreak was declared in Turkey, the GoT has progressively taken measures to reduce the widespread of the disease. These include flight bans, closing of the schools, suggesting self-isolation, reducing movements for people over 60 years and under 20 years of age, closing non-essential shops, and reducing hours of supermarkets with staggered entrances. Since 10 April, the GoT has also applied weekend curfews to halt the spread of the virus.

At the same time, Turkey hosts over 3.5 million Syrian refugees, the largest number of registered Syrian refugees in the world, among whom almost half are children. Over 98% of Syrians under Temporary Protection live in urban and rural areas, with less than 2% residing in the seven remaining temporary accommodation centers. Access to routine and or specialized healthcare services for refugees in Turkey is challenging. Among the main barriers are a lack of information, limited financial means, and language barriers/interpretation. In this context, ensuring prevention and preparedness measures are accessible to and adopted by refugee communities, while also strengthening communication and awareness of good practices, are key to limiting transmission of the new coronavirus among the refugee community in Turkey.

Relief International program in Turkey

Relief International (RI) began humanitarian activities in Turkey in 2014. RI’s current portfolio includes support to six comprehensive physical rehabilitation (PR) and five mental health (MH) centers across the southeast of Turkey,
Izmir and Istanbul; a community health awareness project in Istanbul; and a livelihood project for disabled Syrian refugees in Istanbul. RI currently operates, through partnerships with local organizations, in the six provinces of Gaziantep, Hatay, Istanbul, Izmir, Kilis, and Manisa.