Turkey is a richly historical country which has, for centuries, bridged east and west.

MSF in Turkey 2015

2,400 individual and group mental health consultations
£1.5m expenditure

Home to more than 79 million people, modern Turkey was founded in 1923 from the Anatolian remnants of the defeated Ottoman Empire by national hero Mustafa Kemal. He was later honoured with the title Ataturk, or ‘Father of the Turks’.

Under his leadership, the country adopted wide-ranging social, legal, and political reforms.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders first worked in Turkey in 1999. Since then, we have responded to natural disasters, such as the 2011 earthquake, and provided healthcare for refugees and migrants.

Today, MSF is supporting civil society organisations who are working with Syrian refugees. 

Patient story

Eighteen-year-old Salwah Mekrsh is unable to walk.

“Before the war, we used to have everything,” says Salwah, “but since it started we have suffered too much.”  

On 25th November 2012, Salwah was returning home with a neighbour. One of the streets leading to her house was closed, so they decided to take another route. As they set off across a square, a sniper shot Salwah in the back.

Rushed to hospital in Aleppo, the bullets in Salwah’s body were removed, but she was in a critical condition.

Her family tried to send her to Turkey for medical care, but she was prevented from crossing the border. Then, her family heard of a hospital in the area run by MSF and took her there.

MSF’s medical team was able to organise her referral to Kilis hospital, on the other side of the Syrian-Turkish border. Finally allowed to enter Turkey, Salwah was admitted first to Kilis hospital and later to a hospital in the province’s capital, Gaziantep. She spent 12 days in the intensive care unit and now receives psychological support from MSF.

MSF’s work in Turkey: 2015

Over 2.5 million Syrians had sought refuge in Turkey by the end of 2015.

The situation for Syrian refugees living in Turkey remains extremely difficult: the vast majority are living in poor conditions in urban slums, with few work opportunities and limited access to medical care. Since the Syrian conflict started in 2011, more than 67,000 Syrian children have been born in Turkey.

In June, MSF was granted authorisation by the Turkish authorities to carry out medical and humanitarian activities for the growing number of refugees in the country.

Working on the Syrian–Turkish border

In Hatay, in collaboration with the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations (UOSSM), MSF carries out reconstructive surgery missions. We also support the mental health clinic run by the UOSSM.

In Kilis, we work with the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, whose clinic provides basic healthcare, including mental health services, to Syrian refugees. The clinic conducted 35,636 outpatient and 10,508 antenatal and postnatal consultations in 2015.

In late December, in partnership with Physicians Across Continents (PAC), we opened a new facility in Gaziantep offering free healthcare to Syrian women and children. A Syrian team of gynaecologists and midwives provides ante- and postnatal care, family planning services and gynaecology consultations; PAC covers paediatric care.

Şanlıurfa province

We continued to support partner organisation Hayata Destek (Support to Life) in the implementation of a mental healthcare programme for Syrian refugees.

In May, a water and sanitation project was completed in Suruç, providing latrines, showers and water for refugees from Kobanê, Syria, who had been living in temporary camps since September 2014.

From June to September in Akçakale, in collaboration with Hayata Destek, we distributed food and hygiene items to 20,000 refugees displaced from Tal Abyad in Syria.

Towards the end of the year, security deteriorated significantly in the southeast of the country, which is predominantly Kurdish. We are monitoring the situation.

Find out more in our 2015 International Activity Report.

Map of MSF's activities in Turkey, 2015


MSF first worked in Turkey in 1999.


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