Children in crisis after earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye
Millions of children are in need of urgent humanitarian support.
More than one week after two devastating earthquakes and numerous aftershocks hit south-east Türkiye and Syria on 6 February 2023, millions of children are in need of urgent humanitarian support.
While the total number of children directly affected has not yet been confirmed, 5.4 million children live in the 10 provinces of Türkiye struck by the earthquakes, and more than 3.6 million children are affected in Syria. The combined death toll has reached more than 41,000 people with thousands of others injured.
The impact of the earthquakes on the region's children and families has been catastrophic. Many families have lost their homes and are now living in temporary shelters, often in freezing conditions with snow and rain adding to their suffering.
"Families with children are sleeping in the streets, malls, schools, mosques, bus stations and under bridges, staying with their children in open areas for fear of going home, and not being able to assess the structural damage and potential impact of likely aftershocks,” said UNICEF Spokesperson James Elder.
Schools in Turkiye and parts of Syria have now been closed for at least the next week, with many schools temporarily sheltering displaced children and families. In Türkiye nearly 4 million enrolled children, including over 350,000 refugee and migrant children have been impacted. In Syria, as of 13 February, 661 schools have been reported damaged.
Key infrastructure across Syria have been affected, including critical water and sanitation systems, such as water pumping and treatment plants, water towers, and sewage systems. Access to safe water and sanitation is a major concern, as are the health needs of the affected population.
"The children and families of Türkiye and Syria are facing unimaginable hardship in the aftermath of these devastating earthquakes."
How UNICEF is responding
UNICEF has been working around the clock to provide life-saving assistance to children and families affected by the earthquakes. UNICEF teams on the ground have been working with partners to distribute essential supplies such as critical health supplies, blankets, clothing, safe drinking water and sanitation supplies, as well as continuing to provide safe spaces for children to play and recover from the traumatic events they have witnessed.
Despite these efforts, the needs of the affected population are enormous, and the challenges are many and complex. Damage and destruction of roads and infrastructure, along with the freezing conditions, snow, and rain have made it difficult to reach those in need and to provide the necessary aid.
In Syria, UNICEF is working to provide much-needed aid to affected children and families. Supplies are already prepositioned in northwest Syria and distributed to as many people as possible. Immediate priorities include providing access to safe drinking water and sanitation services. UNICEF is assessing the impact of the earthquakes on main water stations and working to provide safe water to those displaced. UNICEF has deployed Mobile Health and Nutrition teams to provide health and nutrition services and supplies.
In Türkiye, UNICEF’s immediate priority is to ensure children and families affected receive the support they desperately need. UNICEF’s response is focusing on providing psychosocial support, setting up child friendly and temporary learning spaces, identifying separated and unaccompanied children and reuniting them with their families or caregivers, assessing damage to water stations and services, as well as evaluating health and nutrition needs.
In both Türkiye and Syria, child protection is a high priority for UNICEF, including the identification and reunification of separated and unaccompanied children and providing psychosocial support to children who may have been exposed to traumatizing experiences.
In the coming days and weeks, UNICEF will continue to work with partners to reach as many children and families as possible with life-saving assistance. UNICEF needs your support to help save lives. Your contribution can make a difference.
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 www.unicef.org