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Intersectoral Vulnerability Survey: The Vulnerability Conditions of Refugees Living in Turkey (Round 1 - April 2021)

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The IVS was designed to assess the severity of humanitarian conditions of the refugee1 population in Turkey, building on a tailored analytical framework, a representative sample at regional and group level and the latest methodological developments in intersectoral analysis (Joint Intersectoral Analysis Framework 2020, Benini 2016, 2018). While some changes to the survey scope were necessary to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions, it offers to date the most comprehensive and representative picture of the changes in humanitarian conditions of the refugee population in Turkey since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Both refugee households recipients from the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) assistance and non-recipients are suffering the economic consequences of COVID-19 restrictions and their impact on livelihoods. Total debt and expenditures increased compared to the pre-pandemic period of COVID-19. This has seriously impacted the ability of refugee households to meet their basic needs, increasingly relying on food related coping strategies, borrowing money and spending savings. The main findings of the IVS and the relationships between issues are summarized in the problem tree below.


The IVS methodology categorized household severity using five severity classes: normal, stressed, moderate, severe and critical (see severity classes definitions in Annex 2). Households falling in the categories moderate, severe and critical are considered in need of additional humanitarian assistance (the higher the class, the more urgent and proportional the assistance should be). Households falling in the category stressed are considered affected by the current situation2, however are not considered in need of external assistance. Evidence gathered by IVS indicates that nearly 25% of households are currently facing moderate or severe humanitarian conditions (28% of eligible households compared to 22% for ineligible households). Only one interviewed household (ineligible) fell in the category critical. Follow up was immediately ensured to verify the finding and proceed with referral. IVS also identified a segment of both groups falling in the stressed severity class (12% of eligible and 19% of ineligible) whose conditions are alarming and are exhausting their coping mechanisms. This population segment is considered at risk and special measures should be taken to prevent them from falling into the in need category.


While the eligible population currently shows the highest proportion of people in need, the ESSN assistance provide them with an important financial buffer compared to the ineligible, whose conditions are expected to deteriorate faster in the coming months. Assuming current levels of ESSN assistance and challenges in accessing sufficient income persist, the percentage of refugee households facing unmet needs will most likely increase further in the next six months3. The worstcase (but most likely) scenario - return to full lockdown to reduce the COVID-19 third wave infection rates - could see an additional 15% of the refugee households facing moderate unmet needs, bringing the total percentage of households in need at 40% of the total refugee population. Under such scenario, the proportion of households facing severe need would increase significantly from 2% currently to 13%. Additionally - and demonstrating how more vulnerable the ineligible population has become - the proportion of ineligible in need would be equal to the proportion of eligible in need.


Food, housing and energy are considered the top priority needs by both eligible and ineligible households. To cover regular expenditures related to those three items (accounting for 74% of the total monthly expenses), households have to sacrifice other important expenses, including education, communication and health related costs (e.g. dentist). As a result, 38% of eligible households have at least one school aged child not attending the online curriculum, one household out of two reports dental issues, one out of five cannot afford medical expenses, more than half cannot afford communication costs and 66% cannot afford basic household items.


Geographical areas whose local economy was most affected by COVID-19 restrictions are the same regions where the highest percentage of refugees in need are found, e.g. West Marmara and Aegean region, Black Sea and Eastern Anatolia and the Mediterranean region.
Those are also the regions with the highest relative poverty rate in Turkey (TurkStat, 2019). On the other side, areas such as South East Anatolia or East Marmara regions show a slightly lower proportion of their refugee population in need, most likely due to the fact the social network is stronger close to the Syrian border and the local economy (mostly industrial) was not disrupted for too long by the COVID-19 measures in East Marmara.
Overall, those geographical differences are not very pronounced and the concerns raised in the IVS report apply to the entire country


The severity of conditions is clearly linked to the income-earning capacity of refugee households and to the number of dependents. Single-income earning households, particularly those headed by divorced, separated, widows or widowed persons and those with children, are more likely to face moderate or severe conditions than households with married couples and those without children. Families that have been living in Turkey for more than three years and with members with a better command of the Turkish language generally find more income earning opportunities and are facing less severe humanitarian conditions.