Syria and Türkiye earthquakes: Impact on children and families
Stories from children and families whose lives have been impacted by the earthquakes.
While the scale of the catastrophe is still emerging, the impact of the devastating earthquakes that struck Syria and Türkiye on 6 February is clear.
Tens of thousands of people died following the initial earthquakes and aftershocks, with hundreds of thousands more left facing unimaginable hardship. The earthquakes have turned the lives of millions of children upside down and left many in desperate need of psychosocial support. 2.5 million children in earthquake-affected areas of Türkiye and 3.7 million children in affected areas in Syria need urgent humanitarian assistance.
During visits to Türkiye and Syria, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell highlighted the importance of social services, including water and sanitation, and psychosocial support for affected children.
“It is not enough to simply provide immediate relief – we must commit to standing with these families for the long haul, helping them to regain a sense of stability and hope,” said Russell. “By providing access to essential services, like safe water, health care, and psychosocial support, we can help children and families heal from the awful experiences they have endured so they can begin to rebuild their lives.”
Amid an unimaginable level of destruction, with building after building reduced to rubble, you’ll see a blanket, a toy or a child’s book - remnants of young lives violently disrupted or cut short.
In Türkiye, UNICEF has so far reached nearly 277,000 people—including over 163,000 children—with lifesaving supplies. UNICEF, through its partners, has also reached over 198,000 individuals with psychological first aid and recreation activities. In north-west Syria, UNICEF has reached more than 400,000 affected people with either nutrition or water, sanitation and hygiene services and supplies. UNICEF trucks carrying humanitarian supplies for more than 1.8 million people have been sent to support communities and children.
Here are stories from children and families whose lives have been impacted by the earthquakes, in their own words.
Aya and family displaced after the earthquakes
6-year-old Aya and her family have sought shelter in a sports centre in Lattakia after being displaced because of the earthquakes. Aya’s family’s house was badly damaged. They were originally displaced from Aleppo a few years ago due to the ongoing conflict.
“During the earthquake, I felt terrified, but I didn’t move from my bed. I remember my mother calling my father to collect us and leave the house quickly. I can still remember how doors and windows were shaking strongly during the earthquake,” said Aya. “My only fear was that something bad happens to my family. As long as my father and mother are with me, I am not afraid of anything.”
Musa keeps dreaming of the earthquakes
6-year-old Musa was injured when a wall collapsed on him during the earthquake, forcing the family to flee and seek refuge in this temporary shelter.
“I keep dreaming that I was sleeping in the room and no one woke me up. I heard screaming outside and got scared. My mother came and told me, 'Wake up! There’s an earthquake!' I went outside and something fell on me,” said Musa. Despite the hardship they face, Musa and his 9-year-old brother Ammar play and laugh together, embodying the resilience and hope of those affected by natural disasters.
Raafat Abd al-Latif and family sheltering in the school where he worked as a teacher
Raafat Abd al-Latif, 38 years old, has four children. He and his family are taking refuge in the shelter center in a school in Atarib, west of Aleppo, where he was working as a teacher before the earthquake.
“I was fearful for myself and my children. We lost our minds; we were wondering where to go?” said Raafat. “As a teacher, I hope I will return to school and teach children again to compensate them for what happened by raising their awareness and providing them with recreational materials so they can forget this tragedy. But far more distressing is that we lost some students who died because of the earthquake. When we return to school, their friends will know that they died under the rubble, and this will affect them.”
The earthquakes destroyed Sabah’s home
9-year-old Sabah from Syria fled her home with just the clothes on her back when the deadly earthquakes hit.
"We were sleeping, and we did not feel anything but then my brother woke my mom up. They started screaming so I got up. It was very scary, rainy and cold. I would have taken a jacket for me, a hat, and socks and shoes,” said Sabah. “I don't have an appetite and I don't feel like eating food.” Sabah has received treatment for malnutrition.
Bissan shares her experience and dreams for the future
After the earthquakes, 10-year-old Bissan and her family spent the next days moving from one place to another.
“Our house collapsed on that day. My siblings and I were horrified and we got behind my mother, who also feared for us. I hope somebody rebuilds our house because my father is dead, and there is no one to do so,” said Bissan. “I was ranked first in my class. Now, we do not go to school anymore. I hope to go back to school and for our house to be rebuilt.”
Ghazi Faisal Mohammad and family survived the earthquakes
Ghazi Faisal Mohammad, 42 years old, recounts their family’s ordeal during the earthquake. He has been displaced for 5 years to Jandairis, north of Aleppo. “It was about 4 am, we were sleeping when we felt that the earth was shaking, and we heard a great roar. It was a horrible sound. I had never heard such a sound in my entire life. We ran out barefooted, my children were begging me for sandals. All of this was when we were in the rain.”
Ghazi’s son said, “We woke up, turned on the lights, then the power went off. We ran out to the street, then the house collapsed and we were terrified. I felt that the world was spinning.” Ghazi and his family are currently in a temporary shelter on the Syrian-Türkish border.
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