UNICEF Geneva Palais briefing note on the situation of earthquake-affected children and families in Türkiye
This is a summary of what was said by UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia Afshan Khan – to whom quoted text may be attributed - at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva
“I have just returned from Türkiye, where I saw first-hand some of the devastation left by the powerful earthquakes in south-east Türkiye and Syria.
I was in Kahramanmaras, one of the 11 most affected provinces. Seventeen days after the earthquakes reduced buildings to rubble, thousands of families are still huddled in shelters and temporary accommodation. Families are still taking refuge in cars, bus stations, under bridges and in makeshift tents.
The children and families who survived the earthquake now face homelessness, lack of food and water, and temperatures that regularly drop below freezing at night. Over 1 million people are staying in temporary accommodation shelters – gyms, stadiums, hotels and dormitories - with limited access to essential services.
I visited one of these centres in Kahramanmaras. Initially hosting 9,000 people, this centre is now home to almost 18,000. Nearly one third of them are children. The space is cramped, and living conditions are dire.
I saw one of the local schools completely destroyed in the earthquakes. The education of nearly 4 million children, including over 350,000 refugees and migrants, is at risk, due to the overwhelming number of damaged or destroyed schools.
We know how important learning and routine is for children and their recovery. Right now, amid such destruction and uncertainty, children need support so they can regain a sense of normalcy.
Among those affected by the earthquakes are some of the 800,000 Syrian refugee children Türkiye has so generously hosted over the past decade. So many had already lost their homes once before. This is the complexity of the tragedy that we see before us now.
Children in Türkiye are at risk of developing anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They need to be able to resume their education, and they urgently need psychosocial support to help deal with the trauma they have experienced.
UNICEF is working hand in hand with the Government and partners to provide lifesaving supplies and immediate psychosocial support. We are supporting the Government in identifying unaccompanied and separated children; setting up child-friendly temporary learning spaces; and assessing water, health and nutrition needs.
We have so far reached nearly 270,000 people including over 162,000 children with critical supplies including hygiene kits, winter clothes, and electrical heaters. UNICEF requires US$196 million to reach 3 million people, including 1.5 million children, in Türkiye over three months.
The scale of the devastation in Türkiye is nothing less than catastrophic. Children have witnessed death and destruction. Worlds have been shattered. They need our continued support.”
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit https://www.unicef.org/eca/.