Tent cities define the popular image of refugee camps, constructed in rural areas with provisions established for only the most basic of services including shelter, hygiene facilities, health clinics, and food. As refugee crises become extended, the needs of the displaced evolve, making education, vocational training, social integration, and women's health more important for the long term prospects of refugees and local populations alike. While longer-term issues are handled on other Study Abroad Think Tank's pages, the organization profiles, podcasts, and programs detailed below concentrate on the immediate needs of refugee populations.


See GSU PhD candidate Eric Van Holm's article, "DIY Development: Syrians in Turkey Are Saying No to International Aid," featured on

Although refugee situations arise in many different circumstances and locations, some of the basic challenges of providing humanitarian aid and stabilizing displaced communities are common across contexts. For instance, the urgency in building temporary refugee camps create health and sanitation problems that have been overcome in established urban areas. In addition, the provision of services necessitates the removal of public funding from local needs creating political and policy conflicts. In addition, while refugee status is often construed as being temporary, it can become prolonged for years or decades as international conflicts continue. Refugees often face difficulties integrating into their new homes because of language and cultural barriers; despite those barriers, generally half of refugees do not leave after the displacing conflict has ended. Lastly, the continuing cycle of crises around the world combined with "donor fatigue" make it difficult for host governments to count on international funding to support long-term refugee stays.


Success of Turkey's Refugee Camps 

Despite these challenges, Turkeys refugee camps are regarded as among the best in the world. Rather than accept support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is typical in refugee situations, Turkey has run their 22 camps centrally through the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD). In addition to AFAD’s direct provision of services, they also permit support from INGO’s within their camps; in addition, INGO’s work with refugees unable or unwilling to locate in camps. Turkey has spent over $4 billion since the crises began to serve 1.8 official refugees along with hundreds of thousands that are not offically counted.


Eric Van Holm interviews ANERA President and CEO Bill Corcoran about ANERA's work with Syrian refugees, specifically in relation to the issues with delivering services to refugees, difficulties of the compounded crises in the Middle East and establishing relationships with other organizations on the ground in Lebanon. 

See GSU MA candidate Ameer Muhammad's article, "The Challenges of Educating Syrian Refugees in Turkey," featured in  

Turkish INGO Programs

IHH is a humanitarian relief organization based in Turkey that works as first responders in conflict regions, impoverished regions, and areas hit by natural disasters. Beginning with Bosnia in the early 90s, IHH has provided refugees with basic needs as well as worked to maintain the dignity and rights of people regardless of race, religion or gender. IHH's mission statement relates to the fulfillment of humanitarian needs, to advocate for the people, and to provide humanitarian diplomacy. They are unique in this case, as NGOs rarely target all three of these goals.

IHH -- Food Assistance

Before a refugee can enter a refugee camp, they must cross the border between their former and future country. Despite Turkey’s open border policy, which welcomes Syrians to enter, thousands have spent periods stuck at the border since the crises began, waiting to go through security checks or have a camp opened which can accommodate them. These refugees require the same basic assistance provided by refugee camps, and İHH has worked to deliver hot meals to thousands at the border each day in addition to their normal services provided once refugees enter Turkey.


John Barlow Interviews IHH deputy president Hüseyin Oruç regarding the organization's mission and vision. Listen to find out more about IHH (self-described as an NGO from the Islamic world) and their objectives to provide humanitarian aid to people in desperate need all over the world.

Kimse Yok Mu -- Electronic Bank Cards

Refugees living in cities, as opposed to those located in official refugee camps, do not have access to the same level of services provided directly through AFAD. As such, Kimse Yok Mu and other NGOs help to provide for the basic needs of Syrian refugees scattered throughout Turkey, including food, shelter, and hygiene. In addition, Kimse Yok Mu partnered with UNHCR to provide refugees electronic bank cards, which can be used in stores to purchase goods. Bank cards allow refugees to be less tied to direct support from aid organizations while granting individuals agency to decide what services they require at that time.

Kim Se Yok Mu is a faith-based non-profit organization housed in Istanbul, Turkey. Their name comes from the Turkish phrase that literally translates to “Is anyone there?”—Inspired from what a distressed person would say when in need of help. This organization was established in 2002 and since then has had over 3 million donors. Their international aid efforts include immediate disaster relief, food provision, water well development, and cataract surgery. In response to a questioner asking why they did cataract surgery for those in need, a representative of Kim Se Yok Mu said, “they are waiting in a dark place (in blindness) open their windows (vision) and their minds.” This organization has also established five hospitals in different nations. Kim Se Yok Mu is a Hizmet- affiliated non-profit.


Ihsan -- Livelihood Development Projects

Ihsan for Relief and Development is a component of the Syrian Forum, focusing both on immediate humanitarian aid and long-term development projects to aid refugees and the internally displaced. Their aid projects focus on relief in health, shelter, and food security for those in Syria without the capability to provide for themselves. As the conflict has lengthened, development projects have been started in areas with enough security to begin investments. IHSAN emphasizes gaining participation from beneficiaries with projects such as agricultural initiatives whereby the internally displaced are supported to begin growing their own food once again. Started in 2012, IHSAN represents part of the Syrian civil society that has arisen out of the conflict.

Eric Van Holm spoke with Yisser Bittar, the partnership coordinator for Ihsan. They discussed the threat of aid dependency within Syria and the popularity of agricultural projects that allow the internally displaced to produce their own food.

The Hope Foundation for Fighting Cancer

The Hope Foundation for Fighting Cancer (جمعية الأمل لمكافحة السرطان) is a housing facility for Syrian cancer patients receiving treatment in Turkish hospitals. Founded by Dr. Abdur-Rahman Zayno in 2005 in Damascus with branches in Homs and Aleppo, the organization has been housed in Gaziantep since 2012. They have facilities to accommodate 30-50 people and a cafeteria that provides breakfast and dinner. Medical treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, and additional testing)  is paid for by the Turkish government but direct overhead costs of the facility reach approximately $20,000/month. Such costs include rent and food as well as staff, counselor, and nursing salaries. Despite current conditions, The Hope Foundation provides transportation for patients to and from all areas in Syria and abides by a strict non-discrimination and apolitical policy.


Bousla -- Vocational Training

Founded in 2011 and monitored by the KPMG, the Syrian Forum is a consortium of six organizations that addresses the immediate needs of Syrians in crisis while preparing for a future Syria.  One of the six organizations is Bousla, which specializes in providing training and development programs for Syrian civil society associations.  There educational track prepares teachers to provide an education in line with international standards of educational quality. 

Al-Moumayazoon School teaches children in Gaziantep from kindergarten to secondary school. Their program integrates Syrians into Turkish society with lessons in three languages. It is a private school funded and sponsored by Syrians living in Gaziantep

Al-Mousmayazoon School

Necessity is the mother of invention. The scale of refugee crises around the world has contributed to new developments that are reshaping the programs and services being offered.

Recent Innovation in Refugee Relief

Providing basic shelter is a critical need of the displaced. IKEA, the international housewares provider, has worked with the Swedish Refugee Housing Unit (RHU) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to develop prefabricated tents that are easy to ship and construct. Though more expensive than a tent at a cost of $1,150, the shelters accommodate five people, provide ventilation and protection from extreme weather, contain solar panels, and can be constructed in one day by eight workers. After being tested in Iraq and Ethiopia, their use is being expanded by the UN.

Because of limited resources and attention, government agencies are unable to provide for all of the needs of refugees. While refugee situations normally conjure the provision of services running from agencies to refugees, unmet needs create space for refugees to develop their own solutions. Do-it-yourself (DIY) development has been a trend in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan and is a useful model in other contexts.

IKEA Shelters

DIY Development

Kenya’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NGO Sanivation have developed a solar sanitation pilot project to help prevent disease in their refugee camps. The project uses solar energy to treat bodily waste to quickly transform it either into fertilization or safe for disposal. Sanitation is a primary contributor to diseases such as cholera and dysentary, which can often run rampent in crowded camps.


Solar Sanitation


This website is simply a classroom project that uses a conventional study abroad trip, student talent, and faculty expertise to fill an important information gap concerning Turkish politics and the Syrian crisis. Overseen by faculty mentors Dr. Abbas Barzegar and Dr. Rashid Naim of Georgia State University, advanced graduate students and undergraduates from various disciplines were placed in small working groups tasked with explore key subject areas. They did this by conducting research before their trip and interviewing experts. During their three-week trip they continued this process as they visited NGOs, think tanks, and cultural sites. Every day they documented their experiences through the content material that can be found on this site. See this brief article about the project for more information.





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