WFP distributes vital hygiene supplies to refugees in Turkey’s camps

WFP equips vulnerable refugees with hygiene kits to help them mitigate coronavirus risks as much as possible.

Suraj Sharma
World Food Programme Insight
4 min readMay 7, 2020


Hygiene kits being distributed at a refugee camp in Kahramanmaras, southeastern Turkey. Photo: WFP

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 posing a heightened threat to vulnerable populations, the World Food Programme mobilized swiftly to ensure that all refugees in Turkey’s camps, over 55,000 people, are equipped with a crucial first line of defence — hygiene supplies.

‘When the camps were planned, no one — even in their worst nightmares — could have imagined having to meet the requirements of COVID-19.’

Working in partnership with the government body overseeing refugee camp management, Turkey’s Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), WFP has distributed 15,000 packages of hygiene supplies to meet the immediate needs of all refugee families living in six camps in southeastern Turkey.

This includes newly arrived households which have been temporarily placed in a 14-day quarantine.

Packages include a variety of general and personal hygiene items, such as hand sanitizer, bleach, wet wipes, paper towels, surface cleaner, laundry detergent, soap, shampoo, and disposable face masks. The contents are calculated to provide each family with approximately three months’ worth of supplies.

Separately, WFP is also providing camp workers with personal protective equipment such as gloves and N-95 masks.

“When the camps were planned, no one — even in their worst nightmares — could have imagined having to meet the requirements of COVID-19, especially given the need for social distancing,” says Jonathan Campbell, WFP Deputy Country Director in Turkey.

Campbell adds people are necessarily crowded in the camps, sharing a refugee living unit as a one-room home for the whole family; and with the containers close to each other, just as in many traditional towns and villages in the region.

“Supporting the family hygiene requirements in the camps is therefore so important to help people take the precautions that contribute to keeping their families safe,” he says.

WFP field staff deliver hygiene kits to families at a refugee camp in Hatay, southern Turkey. Photo: WFP

On top of the regular assistance provided through e-vouchers that are loaded with a monthly sum of US$15 (100 Turkish lira) per person — US$12 of which is allocated for food — WFP has also provided a one-off top-up of 1,000 lira (US$152) per household, replicating what the Government has done for Turkish families.

This will help families meet their additional needs. Vulnerable populations, particularly those currently confined to camps, are facing a rapid deterioration in living standards and resilience as many have lost their sources of income amid a heightened risk of the disease.

Soap and shampoo: the new lifesavers

‘WFP is determined to help the families we support in every possible manner, particularly during these difficult times.’

The new realities that have emerged as a result of the pandemic prompted WFP to quickly adapt its assistance to meet needs in these unprecedented times.

“Food and water are often considered the essential life-saving requirements. Suddenly we are faced with a situation where soap and shampoo are also life-saving,” says Shelly Sayagh, the WFP Head of Programme in Turkey. “We needed to get these items to the most vulnerable people as quickly as possible as personal hygiene is crucial to protect oneself from infection.

“The urgency of the situation saw WFP improvise and streamline some of its processes to procure these vital hygiene supplies quickly, creating kits in line with World Health Organization guidelines on COVID-19 and using vendors already contracted by other UN agencies to avoid any potential bottlenecks in the procurement process,” says Sayagh.

The first round of distribution was made possible with funding from Norway. Photo: WFP

The distribution of these vital hygiene supplies were made possible thanks to the generosity of Norway. USAID’s Food for Peace has also made funds available for a second distribution at a later date. Both countries are supporting the household top-ups.

Continued funding to address future needs of this extremely vulnerable population remains a priority however.

“One lesson we can all take from this is that we are all in it together. COVID-19 does not discriminate and it can spread from anywhere to anyone,” says Sayagh. “WFP is determined to help the families we support in every possible manner, particularly during these difficult times.”

Learn more about WFP’s work in Turkey