Menu ENN Search

A day in the life of a WFP field monitor working in the Syrian refugee camps in south-eastern Turkey

By Afaf Shasha 

Afaf Shasha is Field Monitor Assistant at the World Food Programme (WFP). She holds an MA from the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University, Turkey. She has a strong continuing interest in human rights and conflict resolution and an equally strong desire to see progress towards a sustainable global peace.

As a WFP field monitor, my job is to assess the food security situation in the camps for Syrian refugees specifically in the Hatay region. We need to know if they are getting the food they need and if their children are receiving the appropriate nutrition and how we can improve their access to food. That requires me to spend many hours in these camps mixing with refugees in their tents, which greatly contrasts to what I have done in my previous jobs. For years, I worked in a luxurious office with a multinational company but today as I stand in the camps, with displaced people forced out of their homes and living in tents waiting to hear of any news from home, I cannot help but draw comparisons between the two lives. In contrast to business meetings in fancy conference rooms in comfortable surroundings, I am now in the field inside the refugee camps, working with the most vulnerable displaced people and I do feel that I have lived two lives, which represent two different realities that are difficult to imagine existing in the same era of history. 

At the camps, officially designated in Turkey as ‘‘guest tent cities,” the first scene is the crowd of children, who make up almost half of the camp’s population, playing on the ground, looking after their younger siblings or just out of their classes and running to us to practice the new Turkish words they have learnt. I speak with newly arrived 12-year old twins, Hasan & Hussain, one tall with fair skin and the other short with darker skin. They are sitting in their tent with their parents, eating oil and zaater for breakfast.  A 10-year old girl with beautiful grey eyes, Razan, wants to become an architect so she can build her own house. She does not enjoy living in tents and she is an orphan. I have also spoken with several 18 year old young men who ran away from Syria, fleeing military service so they could continue their education.

Many of the girls and women, from under the age of 18 to over 40, are pregnant. Some of the mothers have a dozen or more children and even in their mid-thirties, some are grandmothers. Of course, health care and nutrition are their main needs. 

Women doing their own shopping using WFP/TRC electronic food vouchersChatting with women carrying their babies while shopping, I check on how they breastfeed and how many times the baby receives milk per day. Some women mention how keen they are on breastfeeding at least until the sixth month. Others say that due to the stress and lack of sufficient food, they lack breastmilk and totally depend on infant formula and complain of its prohibitively high price.

The most gratifying scene, in my opinion, is seeing women doing their own shopping using WFP/TRC electronic food vouchers. WFP often uses vouchers to provide assistance in all camps in Turkey. It provides people with more choice and they can buy fresh food such as fruit, vegetables and milk that are not normally included in conventional food rations.

Vouchers also inject money into the local economies of host countries and help refugees develop financial awareness and planning. It encourages better management of the food budget. 

Some of my tasks such as monitoring the families after they have received and redeemed their food vouchers are not easy. It requires special effort with the people who may not feel relaxed or confident enough to answer questionnaires because some of the refugees feel that any candid response could have negative impacts on the assistance that they receive. We, as field monitors, have to explain the purpose of providing feedback on food availability in the market and if the family members are receiving the nutritious food that their bodies need. 

The most challenging question that we ask Syrian refugees is what is the list of the foods they ate in the previous week, but the answers are crucial data for WFP evaluations of the nutritional status in the camp. 

When asking them if they are eating differently from what they used to eat in Syria, the ‘guests’ often mention that can rarely eat their favorite foods. The vast majority - if not all - are very satisfied with the e-food card which allows them to buy the type of food of their own choosing. While grateful, beneficiaries do not like the provision of hot meals (used at the beginning of the crisis), since the food, did not for the most part, suit their taste. Bread is important in their diet. Large extended families with many adults consume lots of bread and as this item is not so cheap, it can be hard to meet their demands but the families are thankful to whoever supports them.

Refugees in many cases are just happy to chat with an Arabic speaker to share their feelings and worries; some get very homesick, while others seem to have adapted to camp life. Every number that makes up the statistics on Syrian refugees is actually a life story for a WFP monitor, for someone whom we might meet and talk to on a daily basis. As WFP field monitors, our role is to check on how balanced their diet and nutrition consumption is, while at the contracted market, we inspect the prices, and the proper quality, variety and validity of sold items to ensure equal accessibility for all the Syrian beneficiaries.

Being a displaced person is painful but we do the best we can to make life more comfortable for Turkey’s Syrian ‘guests’.

More like this

FEX: Experiences of the e-Food card programme in the Turkish refugee camps

By Kathleen Inglis and Jennifer Vargas Kathleen Inglis currently works with the WFP as the Programme Communications Officer. She has worked in humanitarian aid in various...

FEX: DRC experiences of cash assistance to non-camp refugees in Lebanon and Turkey

By Louisa Seferis Louisa is the MENA Regional Livelihoods & Cash Advisor for the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). She has worked for three years with the DRC for the Syrian...

FEX: The social life of nutrition among Syrian refugees in Jordan

By Luigi Achilli and Raymond Apthorpe Luigi Achilli is research associate at the Institut Français du Proche-Orient (IFPO) in Amman. He holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. in...

FEX: Meeting Syrian refugee children and women nutritional needs in Jordan

By Henry Sebuliba and Farah El-Zubi Henry Sebuliba is a Nutrition Programme Officer at the World Food Programme Regional Emergency Coordination Unit in Amman, Jordan. A Public...

FEX: Evolution of WFP’s food assistance programme for Syrian refugees in Jordan

By Edgar Luce For the past two years, Edgar Luce has been working for WFP Jordan as a Programme Officer by monitoring operations, writing reports and acting as the VAM...

FEX: Non-food cash voucher programme for IDPs in Northern Syria

By an international NGO Written April 2014 The war in Syria is now in its third year and having displaced over four million Syrians internally - with over 2 million fleeing...

FEX: Syrians in Iraq: Refugee response within a major humanitarian and political crisis

By Lynn Yoshikawa Lynn Yoshikawa is an analyst with the Syria Needs Analysis Project (SNAP) based in Amman, Jordan. She has worked in the humanitarian sector for over 10 years...

FEX: ENN’s perspective on the nutrition response in the Syria crisis

By Carmel Dolan, Marie McGrath and Jeremy Shoham Unless otherwise stated, referenced articles feature in Field Exchange 48. While the ENN's role is first and foremost to...

FEX: WFP e-voucher programme in Lebanon

By Ekram Mustafa El-Huni Ekram Mustafa El-Huni is WFP's Head of Programmes in Beirut, Lebanon. She has worked in a variety of roles with WFP at the headquarters, regional...

FEX: Women’s protection and empowerment programming for Syrian refugees in urban Jordan: challenges and lesson learned

By Melanie Megevand, IRC Melanie Megevand is IRC's Women's Protection and Empowerment Programme Advisor, and has worked in Jordan since May 2012. She established the IRC's...

FEX: Mercy Corps cash programming in the Greece migrant crisis response

By Alan Glasgow Alan Glasgow is Mercy Corps Director of the European Migration Response. In 2015, Mercy Corps established its European Migration Response to meet the urgent...

FEX: Completing the Jigsaw Puzzle: Joint Assessment Missions (JAM)

By Allison Oman Allison is the Senior Regional Nutrition and Food Security Officer for UNHCR based in Nairobi, Kenya. She works with countries in the region to give technical...

FEX: Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation

Name: Jordan Hashemite Charity Organisation (JHCO) Year founded: 1990 Address: Sa'eed Bino St, Khalda, Amman, Jordan President: Ayman Reyadd Almefleh Phone: +...

en-net: Nutrition Survey Co-ordinator Jordan


Nutrition Survey Co-ordinator Jordan - UNHCR

Dates of consultancy: from 03/04/2016 to 24 /06/2016

Duty Station: Amman and for the report...

FEX: The situation of older refugees and refugees with disabilities, injuries, and chronic diseases in the Syria crisis

By Lydia de Leeuw Lydia de Leeuw is the Regional Inclusion Programme Manager for both HelpAge International and Handicap International in the Syria crisis. She has extensive...

en-net: RUTF soon to expire

there is huge amount of RUTF and RUSF that will expire after 2 months in our context area and there are not a lot of cases of severe acute malnutrition. What shall we do with...

FEX: Coordinating the response to the Syria Crisis: the southern Turkey cross border experience

This views piece was developed by the ENN based on eight key informant interviews with donors, UN agencies and INGOs carried out during an ENN visit to southern Turkey in early...

FEX: Challenges of IYCF and psychosocial support in Lebanon

By Juliette Seguin Juliette Seguin is currently Health and Nutrition Coordinator for ACF Lebanon. She has been working with ACF since 2011 in Haiti, Guinea, Bangladesh, Turkey...

FEX: Managing infant and young child feeding in refugee camps in Jordan

By Sura Alsamman Sura Alsamman is nutrition supervisor at Save the Children Jordan, responsible for the overall all coordination of the IYCF technical functions and activities...

FEX: WFP’s emergency programme in Syria

By Rasmus Egendal and Adeyinka Badejo Rasmus Egendal has more than 20 years of experience in international development and humanitarian aid assistance. Currently he is serving...

Close

Reference this page

Afaf Shasha (2015). A day in the life of a WFP field monitor working in the Syrian refugee camps in south-eastern Turkey. Field Exchange 48, November 2014. p148. www.ennonline.net/fex/48/dayinthelife