One month on, more than 850,000 children remain displaced by deadly earthquakes in southern Türkiye and Syria
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ANKARA/DAMASCUS/AMMAN/GENEVA, 6 March 2023 – One month on from the two catastrophic earthquakes that struck southern Türkiye and Syria, more than 850,000 children remain displaced after being forced from their damaged or destroyed homes.
The number of children killed and injured during the quakes and their aftermath has not yet been confirmed but is likely to be in the many thousands. The combined death toll from the earthquakes and aftershocks has reached more than 50,000 people with thousands of others injured and massive destruction to buildings and other essential infrastructure.
The impact of the earthquakes on the region's children and families has been catastrophic, leaving hundreds of thousands in desperate conditions. Many families have lost their homes and are now living in temporary shelters.
In Türkiye alone, over 1.9 million people are staying in temporary accommodation shelters with limited access to basic services such as water, sanitation and medical services in the affected areas. 2.5 million children in the country require urgent humanitarian assistance.
“Families forced from their homes by the earthquakes have spent the past four weeks focused on survival, their lives on hold while aftershocks continue to rumble,” said UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Afshan Khan. “It is now critical to do all we can to help families begin to rebuild their lives – providing children with psychosocial support, getting them back into learning as soon as possible, and providing some stability amid the chaos.”
In Syria, more than 500,000 people are believed to have been forced from their homes by the earthquakes. Many families’ homes have been destroyed and many children are afraid to return to damaged homes as aftershocks continue. Even before the earthquakes, Syria had the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, with 6.8 million people displaced – including nearly three million children. Across Syria, more than 3.7 million children have been affected by the quakes.
“Even before these catastrophic earthquakes, humanitarian needs among children of Syria were higher than they have ever been,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Adele Khodr. “As we approach 12 long years of conflict, millions of families are living on the brink of disaster, feeling as if the world had forgotten them. We must support these families for the long term, helping them pick up the pieces of their lives.”
UNICEF has reached almost half a million people with lifesaving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and supplies, including through water trucking, solid waste management, desludging of septic tanks as well as the provision of family hygiene kits and other lifesaving supplies across Syria. Over 294,000 people, including those taking refuge in shelters, have been reached with essential supplies and medical consultations through UNICEF-supported health centres and mobile health teams. More than 130,000 under five-year-old children have been supported with nutrition services across the earthquake-affected areas. UNICEF has also reached more than 100,000 children and caregivers with psychological support, including psychological first aid, recreational activities, mental health psychosocial support and parenting sessions. Education supplies and recreational kits for distribution to schools and shelters to give children the chance to continue learning.
“Threats come thick and fast for families left vulnerable by the earthquake,” said Khodr. “A comprehensive, integrated response to support children and families is critical in preventing these threats from overwhelming an already catastrophic situation. UNICEF teams are there with children and families affected, but the needs are huge and continued support is vital.”
In Türkiye, UNICEF has distributed winter clothes, electrical heaters and blankets to nearly 277,000 people, including over 163,000 children. Working closely with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF is procuring life-saving vaccines and cold chain storage equipment. 258,000 people, including 148,000 children received hygiene supplies. UNICEF has been setting up child-friendly spaces near temporary accommodation centers and has so far provided psychosocial first aid and recreational activities to over 193,000 people. UNICEF has supported Türkiye’s Ministry of Education to set up 87 tents, which are being used as temporary learning centers. Catch up classes are running in two shifts benefiting nearly 3,600 children every day. UNICEF continues to identify unaccompanied and separated children and refer them for further support.
“Children have seen their whole world crumble before their eyes, but we know how to help them rebuild,” said Khan. “Providing children with the tools – psychosocial support, play and learning, and the stability brought by knowing that their basic needs are met – are immeasurably important in ensuring their long-term wellbeing.”
In Türkiye, UNICEF is requesting US$196 million to reach 3 million people, including 1.5 million children.
In Syria, UNICEF requires US$172.7 million to deliver immediate life-saving support for 5.4 million people (including 2.6 million children) impacted by the earthquake.