Recovering from earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye
Millions of children remain in need of urgent humanitarian support.
Updated 5 February 2024
One year since two devastating earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks hit south-east Türkiye and Syria, millions of children are still in need of assistance. The earthquakes destroyed homes and vital infrastructure, leaving children homeless, vulnerable and without adequate access to essential services.
UNICEF was on the ground to provide immediate humanitarian assistance in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes and remains there to help rebuild education, health care and social protection systems. But the needs remain massive.
How has UNICEF responded?
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, UNICEF worked around the clock to meet families’ most immediate needs, providing life-saving assistance such as safe water, hygiene kits, and vaccines, as well as well as psychosocial support and temporary learning centres.
Despite these efforts, the needs of the affected populations remain enormous, and the challenges are many and complex. Humanitarian assistance has provided a level of support, but, especially for children in Syria, persistent cycles of conflict and crisis continue to put children’s lives and well-being at risk. UNICEF will continue to provide support, including working to get children back into learning as soon as possible and helping to ease the economic pressures on their families.
In Syria, children already faced one of the most complex humanitarian situations in the world. Families have been struggling to cope after nearly 13 years of sustained conflict, continued displacements, the impact of unprecedented economic crisis, and disease outbreaks.
Around 5,900 people were reportedly killed in the 2023 earthquakes and an estimated 3.3 million children were affected. At a time when the economic situation was already dire, many families lost their breadwinner due to death or injury, increasing the vulnerability of millions of people already struggling to meet their basic needs. Meanwhile, harsh winter weather with freezing temperatures and heavy rains will only make things worse for the millions of people whose lives were upended by the earthquakes.
In 2023, UNICEF reached 5.6 million people affected by the earthquakes. As part of its earthquake response, UNICEF:
- Helped 3.3 million people access a sufficient quantity and quality of water for drinking and domestic needs.
- Helped almost 700,000 children and women access primary healthcare in UNICEF-supported facilities.
- Screened more than 400,000 children aged 6 to 59 months for wasting.
- Supported more than 550,000 children in accessing formal or non-formal education, including early learning.
- Reached almost 400,000 children, adolescents and caregivers with community-based mental health and psychosocial support.
In Türkiye, some 2.5 million children were left in need of immediate humanitarian assistance, with the most marginalized children and families bearing the heaviest toll. More than a million people lost their homes and were forced to live in temporary accommodation. Many families lost their livelihoods even as food prices and the costs of other necessities were on the rise, exacerbating poverty levels.
With so much death, destruction and loss, children are still experiencing psychological problems including anxiety, depression and fear, and while significant efforts have been made to increase access to education, many children in the affected areas in Türkiye remain without access to school.
UNICEF has been working with the Government of Türkiye and partners to respond to the immediate and long-term needs of affected children and families. UNICEF has provided critical support including safe water, immunization and hygiene kits, psychosocial support, and education through learning centres. To rebuild pre-existing services, UNICEF is working with partners to strengthen government systems to deliver quality and equitable services to lift children out of poverty. Together we have reached 2.4 million children.
Support in 2023 in response to the earthquakes included:
- Helping almost 1 million children access formal or non-formal education, including early learning, through UNICEF-supported initiatives.
- Ensuring more than 3 million people had access to safe water.
- Providing cash payments to 102,000 households with children.
- In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, vaccinating 1.5 million young children against deadly diseases.
- Providing nearly 100,000 children and caregivers with infant and young children feeding counselling sessions.
UNICEF in emergencies
UNICEF is on the ground before, during, and after emergencies, working to reach children and families with lifesaving aid and long-term assistance.
When a sudden onset emergency such as an earthquake or hurricane strikes, it's children who suffer first and suffer most. At the onset of an emergency – whether it’s a conflict or a natural disaster – UNICEF is capable of delivering pre-positioned life-saving supplies within 72 hours from a network of supply hubs around the world.
In emergencies, children suffer first, and most.
But the work does not stop at delivery. UNICEF works with Governments and partners to ensure assistance continues to have a positive impact in the long term, so that children can hope to enjoy healthy lives and fulfill their dreams.