6.2 mln children continue to face desperate conditions in Turkey, Syria since quakes: UNICEF

Displaced residents look on as they stand near a tent in a camp at Masal Park, in Gaziantep, on February 10, 2023, four days after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the border region of Turkey and Syria. Zein Al RIFAI / AFP

Millions of children and families are struggling to rebuild their lives, with 2.5 million children in Turkey and 3.7 million in Syria in need of continued humanitarian assistance 100 days after earthquakes that hit these countries in early February, UNICEF said.

The UN agency has called on the international community to prioritize a child-focused early recovery and ensure that children’s needs are met within funding allocation.

According to UNICEF, the devastating earthquakes pushed many families to the brink and left children homeless and without access to essential services, including safe water, education and medical care, and increased protection risks for vulnerable children.

A 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck near the Turkish city of Gaziantep – home to around 2 million people and on the border with Syria – as people were sleeping on February 6 was followed by dozens of aftershocks, including a 7.5-magnitude temblor that jolted the region in the middle of search and rescue efforts the same day.

“In the aftermath of the earthquakes, children in both countries have experienced unimaginable loss and grief,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, who visited both countries just weeks after the initial earthquakes. “The earthquakes struck areas where many families were already incredibly vulnerable. Children have lost family and loved ones, and seen their homes, schools and communities devastated and their entire lives turned upside down.”

According to UNICEF, vulnerable children in the quake-hit regions of Turkey are exposed to threats including violence, forced marriage or labor and dropping out of school. “The education of nearly four million school-enrolled children was disrupted, including more than 350,000 refugee and migrant children,” UNICEF said. 

An estimated 1.9 million children in Syria have had their education disrupted, with many schools still being used as shelters, according to the UN’s humanitarian organization working to improve the lives of children and their families around the world. 

“An estimated 51,000 children under the age of five are likely to suffer from moderate and severe acute malnutrition and 76,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women need treatment for acute malnutrition,” UNICEF said.

According to relief organizations the impact of the earthquakes will be felt for months and years to come.

The damage in Turkey alone could amount to over $100 billion and $14.8 billion in Syria, the UN said and launched a $1 billion funding appeal to support millions of people in Turkey.

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