MSF in Turkey 2014

£0.58m expenditure
Eight MSF staff

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

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: 2014

Over 1.8 million Syrian war refugees were living in Turkey at the end of 2014.

The poor living conditions and limited access to medical care endured by many predominantly urban and unregistered refugees in Turkey remain concerning. 

Supporting humanitarian organisations

This year (MSF) launched several interventions to support Turkish Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in delivering assistance to those in need. 

A number of Syrians have settled in the southern provinces of Kilis and Sanliurfa, along the Syrian–Turkish border.

MSF is providing financial and technical support to a number of organisations, including the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly (hCa) which is running a clinic in Kilis aimed at offering high-quality basic healthcare, such as mental health services, to this vulnerable population.

The main goal of the mental health activities in Kilis is to help refugees cope and adjust to their new situation, regardless of whether they live inside or outside the camps.

Legal registration

MSF also offers financial and technical support to the humanitarian agency Support to Life and the International Blue Crescent Relief and Development Foundation in Sanliurfa, where there is a mental health intervention for refugees and activities are underway to improve water supply, hygiene and sanitation conditions – something that is much needed in the temporary refugee settlements in the governorate.

The CSOs supported by MSF responded immediately to influxes of Syrian refugees by distributing shelter materials and non-food aid items such as soap, blankets and plastic sheeting.

If our request for legal registration is granted by the Turkish authorities, activities directly supporting the growing number of refugees may be increased.

MSF Doctors Without Borders Turkey

Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.

At the end of 2014, MSF had 29 staff in Turkey. MSF first worked in the country in 1999.

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