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​Learnings from the Targeting Methods Used in The EU’s Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Cash Transfer Programme for Refugees in Turkey

© WFP. Here’s what cash assistance really means to refugee children in Turkey, Retrieved from:

March 2022

​Learnings from the Targeting Methods Used in The EU’s Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) Cash Transfer Programme for Refugees in Turkey

Our article “Cash transfers: learning from the EU programme in Turkey”, distilling Development Analytics’ learnings from the projects carried out since 2017 related to the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) cash transfer in Turkey, is published in the Forced Migration Review (FMR). Published by the Refugee Studies Centre in the Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford, FMR is the most widely read publication on forced migration globally. In recent years, in Turkey, Development Analytics has taken key roles in several programme evaluations related to the ESSN: the mid-term evaluation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey (the Facility/FRIT) (2019-2021), mid-term evaluation of the ESSN transfer (2017-2018) and mid-term review of the ESSN transfer (2019-2020). Our work in this context resumed this year as well through two different research studies carried out for The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and related to ESSN Phase III.

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The Evaluation of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey 2019-2021

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The Mid-term Review of the ESSN Transfer


1Decentralised Evaluation of the ECHO funded Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) in Turkey1

The Evaluation of the Mid-term Review


The Facility is a EUR 6 billion mechanism designed to share Turkey’s burden of hosting close to four million refugees. Organised in two tranches, it coordinates the EU refugee response, focusing on humanitarian assistance and protection, education, health, socio-economic support, and migration management. The multisectoral evaluation for the European Commission that DA was part of included all actions funded and instruments mobilised under Facility Tranche I (EUR 3 billion) between 2015/16 and 2020. 

The Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) is the cash transfer programme financed through the Facility. It has been the largest humanitarian programme funded by the European Union and was established to improve the living standards of the most vulnerable refugee households in Turkey. ESSN has been running since the end of 2016, and as of June 2022, its caseload was around 1.8 million individuals.  The ESSN is currently implemented by IFRC and TRC in close coordination with the Ministry of Family and Social Services (MoFSS).

The paper underlines important lessons that the ESSN programme offers for donors and programme implementers. Since its launch in 2016, the ESSN programme has used categorical targeting based on demographic criteria to focus benefits on the bottom 40% of the distribution. Yet the high incidence of poverty, similar initial welfare levels and a high degree of flux between poor and non-poor households presented significant challenges to targeting. DA has conducted microsimulation analyses to estimate the poverty levels of households and children when different cash transfer amounts or targeting modalities are implemented, predicting coverage, benefit incidence, and costs of possible scenarios. Using information from simulations in the previous evaluations, the paper suggests that focusing on “targeting out”  the top of the welfare distribution in the refugee context may be more effective than targeting the benefits to the bottom quintiles.

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