With the Syrian refugee crisis peaking in 2011, millions were forced to leave their country. As of September 2021, Turkey remains home to over four million refugees and migrants (mainly Syrian)— largest in the world. More than 3.6 million Syrians—including over 1.7 million children—are under temporary protection, 98% living in host communities. Of these 1.6 million children, nearly 75% (1.2 million) are school-age (5 -17). In Istanbul, there are more than 500.000 disadvantaged and vulnerable Syrians under temporary protection with Fatih (European side of Istanbul) and other neighbouring districts having higher numbers of refugee residents. A majority of these refugees come via internal migration from Southeastern Turkey which tends to be their first entry point into the country.
Most Syrian refugee children have experienced traumatizing events including violence, abuse, war, multiple displacements, migration, loss of family, inadequate parenting, extreme poverty, and social discrimination, and last but not least the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The most prevalent mental health conditions are depression, prolonged grief disorder, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety disorders. Refugee children also face a myriad of other protection issues such as obstacles to accessing basic services i.e., education, food security, health primarily caused by not having proper registration documents, or more serious protection threats such being forced into labour and early marriage- all of which add to existing trauma.
In cooperation with international and local actors, the Turkish government worked to meet urgent needs of large numbers of refugees, but the ongoing Turkish economic and financial crisis also compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic has further deteriorated livelihoods of this highly vulnerable population. A recent UNHCR report states “the COVID-19 pandemic and associated prevention and mitigation activities have major consequences for mental health and psychosocial wellbeing for refugees and other persons of concern. Many people who previously coped well, are now less able to cope because of the multiple stressors generated by the pandemic”. According to the latest 3RP (Regional Refugee & Resilience Plan) reports, increasing mental health and psychosocial needs of Syrians exceed existing support and treatment capacities of the Ministry of Health and other humanitarian organizations so that further MHPSS initiatives with an eye on protection are needed.
Founded in 2015, Maya is a non-profit organization (registered Foundation) established to improve the quality of life for children and youth 5-24. Their vision is a society of healthy individuals who have experienced a free, secure and productive childhood. Maya runs various programs in the Southeast of Turkey and a number of schools across the country, supporting thousands of Syrian refugee children, youth and adults. Since 2017 Maya’s Child and Youth Center in Istanbul has provided MHPSS (Mental Health and Psycho-Social Support), individual and group sessions, and Child Protection (CP) services.
EMpower's first grant to Maya Foundation will help 128 Syrian refugee children and youth in Turkey (10-18 with a special focus on very young adolescent girls) improve their mental health and well being with specialized and preventative healthcare services (MHPSS), including quality art-based mental health care delivered through group and individual sessions, with additional support for 128 caregivers (parents).
Primary Location: Istanbul
Funded Since: 2022
Stay up-to-date on the latest EMpower news, highlights from our grantee partners, upcoming events, and more.