• UNICEF Turkey social media channels achieved a total reach of 30 million with COVID-19 information and advocacy. This high reach was made possible by UNICEF’s partnership with Facebook, which places relevant content on their dedicated COVID-19 Info Centre.
• UNICEF supported the Turkish government to procure Personal Protective Equipment for front-line workers, as well as 15,000 refugees/migrants—including 2,000 children—in removal centres.
• UNICEF and the Turkish Red Crescent distributed 5,000 psychosocial support kits to 2,500 vulnerable families in five provinces. The kits are designed to support children formerly accessing community-based PSS services at UNICEF child protection centres.
• UNICEF provided financial and technical support to the Ministry of National Education to ensure national distance learning programmes are meeting the needs of all 19 million learners in Turkey—including 680,000+ Syrian and other refugee children in public schools and temporary education centres.
• The Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) Programme for Refugees continued despite the nationwide school closure, reaching more than 500,000 children in March. UNICEF partner Turkish Red Crescent disseminated SMS messages on COVID-19 public health measures to CCTE beneficiaries in Arabic and other languages, reaching an estimated 350,000 households, or 1.7 million individuals.
• UNICEF and partners worked to ensure the continuation of community-based child protection services via alternative approaches including email, SMS, online chat and phone—reaching 22,572 people with remote counselling and 8,612 individuals (including 5,350 children) with case management.
• UNICEF provided online seminars to 472 professionals from six government and NGO partners on how to deliver and adapt child protection services during the pandemic. The topics covered issues such as PSS, GBV and child abuse, positive parenting, and case management.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Turkey on 11 March. According to the Ministry of Health, as of 3 May 1,135,367 people have been tested nationwide, 126,045 cases have been confirmed, 3,397 people have died, and 63,151 people have recovered. The outbreak emerged amidst the backdrop of a protracted and complex humanitarian crisis that has already significantly strained basic infrastructure and services: four million refugees are registered in Turkey, including 3.6 million Syrians and 1.7 million children—the largest registered refugee population in the world.
The Government of Turkey activated its National Response Plan for Pandemics and fully marshalled national capacities to address this new crisis. All 1,200+ public and private hospitals across the country have been mobilized and 114 laboratories are certified to test suspected cases. The government is working to increase this capacity while also expanding treatment and quarantine spaces for infected patients.
As part of social distancing and confinement measures aimed at preventing and containing the spread of COVID-19, all schools (including pre-schools) and universities are shuttered until 31 May, after which date the measure will be re-evaluated. Public gatherings, social, cultural and sport events are also suspended or postponed, and all public places are closed—including restaurants and bars, sport and recreation facilities and cultural institutions.
Virtually all international and domestic flights have been cancelled until 28 May, with exceptions for foreign citizens as well as Turkish citizens living abroad who can benefit from special flights. Public and private transport was also banned in 31 provinces, affecting 76% of the total population in Turkey. Grocery stores and supermarkets remain open and are well-stocked, while other basic services (such as electricity, water and gas) continue to function normally.
Nevertheless, the COVID-19 outbreak is putting the most vulnerable children in Turkey—refugees and migrants, children with disabilities, children of agricultural workers and others living in poor or marginalized households—at risk due to the interruption or significant reduction of essential non-health services like education, child protection and social protection. The effects of prolonged social distancing and confinement measures are also likely to result in increased unemployment and fewer livelihood opportunities for vulnerable families, making it more difficult for them to meet their basic needs and leading to increased negative coping strategies such as child labour and early marriage.
Moreover, there is an increased risk of gender-based violence and violence against children, with higherlevels of stress within households and many women and children confined at home with their abusers for long periods of time.