The ‘Linking Cash and Voucher Assistance and Social Protection in forced displacement contexts’ webinar took place on 23 January 2020.

The potential of social protection (SP) to help people in forced displacement situations is of growing interest. Building on the theoretical concepts introduced on the first webinar of the series (recording here), this webinar highlighted the opportunities, challenges, and key considerations for linking forcibly displaced populations to social protection systems, particularly through Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA). It provided an expert debate on the feasibility of replicating such linkages in different contexts considering key factors such as political economy, system maturity, and funding. The webinar was structured around the example of Turkey, focusing on 2 programmes for refugees, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme and the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE), and unpacking how these have linked to the existing SP system.

The event was moderated by Isabelle Pelly (Independent Consultant), with speakers Orhan Hacimehmet (Turkish Red Crescent) and Nona Zicherman (UNICEF Turkey) presenting case studies, and Cecilia Pietrobono (DG ECHO, Turkey) as a discussant. The webinar was organized by the co-leads of the Grand Bargain Cash workstream sub-group on linking SP with humanitarian cash The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

You can watch the webinar recording here and access the webinar presentation here.


Introduction: Opportunities and challenges for linking Social Safety Nets (SSNs) and refugees

Forced displacement has increased at an alarming rate in recent years, currently more than 65 million worldwide, of which 75% are in protracted displacement. A large proportion of humanitarian assistance, including Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) is being provided in response to these needs. This provides an opportunity to draw on social protection systems and specifically on cash-based social assistance programmes.

This comes with both opportunities and challenges which Isabelle Pelly outlined, building on the following UNHCR resources on the topic: Mapping of SSNs and Guidance on Aligning Humanitarian Cash Transfers with National SSNs.



  • Growing opportunities for inclusion of displaced people (refugees and IDPs) in national SP systems
  • Refugees are increasingly accessing national services in certain contexts
  • The interest in funding SSN in forced displacement contexts is growing among external stakeholders, notably as a potential exit strategy from humanitarian assistance and a more efficient means of managing protracted displacement
  • The Global Compact on Refugees and the World Bank IDA 18 Refugee and Host Community Sub- Window provide opportunities for enhancing SSN for refugees.


  • Political economy: the majority of national social safety nets are not accessible to non-nationals. When refugees are granted partial access to SSN, full access is often limited due to restrictive legal frameworks
  • Governments rarely have the capacity, tools and processes in place that can adapt to the impacts of mass displacement shocks.
  • Complex targeting, across multiple safety nets, coordinated by numerous ministries make data analysis, accountability and coordination challenging.
  • Funding of humanitarian and government safety nets often differ in terms of duration, political requirements, objectives and conditions, making alignment challenging.

The moderator also highlighted key considerations for linking SSNs and refugees that were further explored during the webinar by the other participants.


Case study part 1 – The Kizilay card and Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Programme


The Turkey context and integrated assistance through the Kizilay card

Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees in the world: 4m people under temporary and international protection live in the country. Despite the crisis context, Turkey has implemented effective public policies to integrate these vulnerable groups to the existing SP system.

Orhan Hacimehmet provided an overview of the work of the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), also known as Kizilay, which has leveraged its auxiliary role to the government over the last few years to radically scale-up the implementation of humanitarian assistance. The speaker presented the Kizilay card, a digital platform for delivering cash assistance, which allows the simultaneous implementation of multiple humanitarian programmes whilst maximizing efficiency and avoiding duplication. Through the Kizilaykart platform, to date, a total of 2.4m individuals from 75 countries have received cash assistance to cover their needs across various sectors including food, basic needs, education, livelihoods and protection. This assistance is mainly funded by DG ECHO, complemented by other donors, and has been designed and implemented in collaboration with different international and local partners.

The figure below provides an overview of the programmes delivered through the Kızılaykart platform, addressing both immediate and recovery needs. Of these, the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), a programme designed to meet the basic needs of vulnerable refugee households, reached 1.75m individuals as of December 2019.


In parallel, TRC is investing in strengthening national capacity on cash preparedness. This implies collaboration with several ministries and several international and local organizations.


How the Kizilay card platform linked to the existing SP system

Orhan highlighted the importance of understanding the country context and the preparedness measures in place, as a basis for assessing different options for linking. In Turkey, decisions were made based on the following enabling factors: the pre-existing functionality of the Kizilay card, existing government SP systems and cash programmes, the robust banking infrastructure and the legal framework enabling cash assistance to be provided to refugees.

He specifically highlighted the value-add of TRC’s existing long-term engagement with the government, which allowed it to advocate at the highest level for support to vulnerable refugees and to play a convening role between international agencies and the government, including through the ESSN steering committee (co-led by the government and DG ECHO).

In terms of the administrative building blocks of SP systems, assistance through the ESSN programme for refugees builds on:

  • The government’s Integrated Social Assistance Information System (ISAIS) - a comprehensive system that stores the live data of millions of Turkish citizens and Individuals under International and Temporary Protection. TRC developed a parallel system for managing assistance (Göçmen) allowing for integration with ISAIS and with international and local humanitarian actors.
  • The Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services (MoFLSS)’s existing policies, guidelines and circulars which were adapted into Standard Operating Procedures for the ESSN, with a humanitarian angle.
  • The capacity of the government-run Social Assistance Solidarity Foundations (SASF) centers, where applications for assistance take place, which was complemented and expanded through the addition of integrated TRC service centers established in the most refugee-dense areas.


Successes, challenges and way forward

As summarized in the figure below, Orhan highlighted the Value for Money of the ESSN programme, whilst identifying some of the trade-offs involved (e.g. the challenge of aligning the transfer value for refugees with that of government social assistance programmes, which was addressed by providing top-ups to refugees). He also highlighted the critical importance of TRC’s strong relationships with governmental and non-governmental partners, which facilitated the integration of different sophisticated systems and models and provided access to existing capacity and infrastructure.  Additional challenges, success factors, lessons learned, and proposed ways forward, are summarized in the figure below.


Case study part 2 – Turkey Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE)


Overview of context and rationale for cash assistance

Building on the previous presentation, Nona Zicherman, from UNICEF Turkey, provided an overview of the situation for the 1.6m refugee children in Turkey, highlighting the major schooling and protection concerns. She summarized UNICEF’s supply-side response so far, and the rationale for complementary child-sensitive cash assistance to families to support the demand side.

As a complement to the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN), the Conditional Cash Transfer for Education (CCTE) was designed as an extension of the national flagship social assistance programme to incentivize school attendance among refugee families. The programme has been operational since May 2017, implemented through a partnership between the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services (MoFLSS), Ministry of National Education (MoNE), the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC) & the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The slide below summarizes key elements of the programme design.


The programme has reached 562,016 students to date. Such scale has been enabled through the use of existing systems and synergies with ESSN.


Linking social assistance with care services

Nona presented the hypothetical paths of two children through the programme. Child A and Child B are enrolled in school, but child A is regularly attending school with his/her data status going to the national database and therefore making child A eligible for payment via Kizilay card. Whereas child B has not been attending school regularly, and is ineligible for the payment list. In the regular national system, it would stop there. With the extension for refugee children, however, low attendance triggers a visit from child protection teams to assess the situation and make referrals to national and other services to meet the needs of those families. The addition of this component is reducing the damage caused by exposure of children to child-protection risks, mitigating those risks and violations, and sustaining positive education outcomes.



The CCTE for refugees is among the first child-focused humanitarian cash transfers. As a multi-sectoral intervention, convening stakeholders for coordination has been an important aspect of implementation. The leadership of the Government of Turkey was also key to this programme’s success, in terms of facilitating cash-based assistance for refugees and the openness to adapting existing SP programme design.


Key considerations for other contexts

Based on the previous presentations, Cecilia Pietrobono posed the following questions “Is Turkey too good to be replicated?”, “What can we learn from Turkey?”, and “What can be done in terms of preparedness?”.

By focusing on the difference between Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees, she highlighted the barriers the latter encounter to accessing social assistance (for example, the legal requirement to be registered in country and their ability to access social services in country). The relevance of the objectives of the programme and mapping of social assistance programmes already in place were also emphasized as key considerations in order to adapt the Tukey examples to other contexts.  

In terms of preconditions needed to link SP with humanitarian cash, the following were highlighted:

  • the alignment between the objectives of assistance for refugees and existing social assistance programmes;
  • the commitment from the country receiving refugees towards cohesion and inclusion;
  • the use of cash in country prior to a refugee influx;
  • long-term strategies along with coordination and cooperation from several stakeholders (government, development and humanitarian actors, private sector) who should be involved from the outset and throughout the whole process.  

The challenge of sustainability of funding and assistance is significant in refugee-hosting contexts, because of the non-contributory nature of the system which is being built. The fundamental question, particularly for refugees is “Who will pay for the system that has been put in place?”, which was tackled in the Q&A session, accessible here.



This blog post is part of the Linking Social Protection with humanitarian cash webinar series, which brings together the summaries of webinars organized by IFRC, UNICEF and DFID on the topic. To set the scene, don’t forget to watch the foundational webinar on this topic: Demystifying the entry points for humanitarians. If you have any thoughts on this webinar summary or the whole series, we would love to hear from you. Please add your comments below!



References (resources referenced in the webinar presentation):

Cash Hub website. Access here:

Türk Kızılay - Kızılaykart Platform, 2019. Survey Findings Livelihoods. Available here:

Türk Kızılay - Kızılaykart Platform, 2019. Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Programme Technical Analysis Report. Available here:

UNHCR, 2019. Aligning Humanitarian Cash Assistance with National Social Safety Nets in Refugee Settings - Key Considerations and Learning. Available here:

UNHCR, 2018. UNHCR Mapping of Social Safety Nets for Refugees Opportunities and Challenges. Available here:

World Bank, 2019. Unbundled: A Framework for Connecting Safety Nets and Humanitarian  Assistance in Refugee Settings. Available here:







Social Protection Programmes: 
  • Social assistance
    • Social transfers
      • Cash transfers
        • Conditional cash transfers
    • Subsidies
      • Price subsidies
        • Food subsidies
      • Service subsidies
        • Educational fee waiver
Social Protection Building Blocks: 
  • Policy
    • Coverage
    • Laws and Policies
    • Expenditure and financing
    • Monitoring and evaluation systems
    • Governance and coordination
  • Programme implementation
    • Benefits payment / delivery
  • Programme design
    • Benefits design
    • Conditionalities
Cross-Cutting Areas: 
  • Financial education and inclusion
  • Food and nutritional security
  • Human rights
  • Poverty reduction
  • Migration
    • Remittances
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Turkey
  • Europe & Central Asia
The views presented here are the author's and not's