Rapid Funds Leads to Rapid Response: CARE in Turkey


On the morning of November 5, I joined the CARE Turkey field team responding to the needs of recently-arrived refugees from Kobane, Syria. CARE was one of the first agencies on the ground, with dedicated staff working tirelessly to provide food, clothes and other essentials for those who have flooded across the border to Turkey since September 18 to flee heavy fighting.

As the fighting raged, people fled Kobane very quickly and were unable to bring anything with them, arriving with only the clothes they were wearing, clothes meant for the hot summer climate. Now, as winter nears, the temperature already drops to four degrees Celsius at night and will get even colder in the upcoming months.

I took part in a CARE distribution of blankets and hygiene kits in a small rural village south of the town of Suruç, Turkey, in sight of the city of Kobane, around four kilometres off in the distance. Fighter jets flying overhead and clouds of smoke above Kobane are a constant reminder of the ongoing fighting for control of the city.

In Suruç, we spoke with an elderly woman named Aisha, who was living with her family in a poorly-kept building that the local population opened for the refugees to live in. They are one of the luckier families, as many refugees are sheltering in makeshift mud huts that were used to hold livestock before the fighting. Although these are great examples of the local support provided to refugees in Turkey, the capacity of communities to help the refugees is being severely stretched.

The effectiveness of humanitarian interventions often hinges on the speed in which agencies can mobilize money and staff.

People have a right to assistance, however with Ebola, South Sudan, Ukraine and the fighting within Syria, humanitarian funding is stretched globally and ensuring money is prioritized for smaller emergencies with less media coverage is sometimes difficult to do.

With winter quickly approaching, the speed at which we deliver aid can make the difference between people being able to prepare for the winter months or facing a high risk of death or serious health complications for infants, young children and the elderly.

The Government of Canada’s Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund (CHAF) is designed for situations just like this – where people need support quickly and money is not readily available.

As a result of the fighting in Kobane, there was a rush of thousands of refugees to Turkey. CARE needed to quickly respond. The funding from the CHAF was confirmed within 24 hours of the initial emergency request, which allowed us to scale up very rapidly to meet the needs of families and women like Aisha.

Thanks to these rapid funds, CARE is working to meet immediate needs; distributing winter clothes, boots, blankets, mattresses and hygiene items, while also improving water supplies and latrines in over-crowded villages. The assistance we have received thus far enables us to meet some of the emergency needs and continue our work with the Kobane refugees until early 2015.

Unfortunately, this crisis is likely to continue much longer and we will need more support to assist these people to rebuild their lives and their livelihoods over the coming year.

The faster this support can come, the more effective it will be.

Written by Kevin Dunbar, Senior Program Manager