The latest estimates place the number of deaths at over 20,000 people with hundreds of thousands of people left homeless across Syria and Turkey. The earthquake, and numerous aftershocks that followed on February 6, 2023, resulted in thousands of children and families risking long-term devastation and instability. In a season of below freezing temperatures, snow and freezing rain, children and families find themselves homeless with their homes and memories destroyed (UNICEF, 2023).
The situation is especially volatile in Syria, as the country has been grappling with war for the past 12 years and is experiencing a complex humanitarian situation that increases the need for aid. However, the much-needed aid is often not allowed into the country, due to the regime’s restrictions. UNICEF is now stepping up their humanitarian assistance to children and families as well as seeking collaborations with organizations in the region (UNICEF, 2023).
UNICEF's main priority is to ensure that the affected children and families are able to access safe drinking water and sanitation illness. This is a priority because ensuring that these services are accessible are critical to preventing illness, especially in the early stages of a crisis. Another priority that is of concern is child protection. This involves working to identify children who are separated and unaccompanied and attempting to reunite them with family members. This process also involves working to provide children with psychosocial support, as this is a very traumatizing time for children (UNICEF, 2023).
“Children in Syria now face a compounding crisis,” said Lucy Bassett, Professor of Practice at the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy and the co-director of the Humanitarian Collective. “After decades of civil war and spiraling economic crisis, families were already struggling to feed their children, keep them warm during the bitter winter, and ensure they could access health and education” (Newswise, 2023).
“After the February 6th earthquake and its powerful aftershocks, thousands of children were injured and traumatized,” said Bassett. “Some are still stuck under rubble, and many are cold, separated from their caregivers, and have lost their homes” (Newswise, 2023).
Emergency workers are pleading for more aid as the devastation continues to unravel. So far, seventy countries have offered to send rescue teams or humanitarian assistance to Turkey. However, the response has been different for the sanctioned state: Syria. The country still remains divided after the civil war (NYT, 2023).
“Our teams have been working nonstop in the past 75 hours with no breaks, no rest,” said Mohammed al-Shibli, a member of the White Helmets civil defense group that operates in the opposition-held areas of Syria. The group, which has gained fame by rescuing civilians during the civil war, is finding itself struggling to keep up with the mounting death toll and injuries from the earthquake (NYT, 2023).
“Some people under the ruins are sharing their wills with the team,” said Mr. al-Shibli. “Under the rubble, they ask them to convey messages, they share names of their beloved one, then they die” (NYT, 2023).
Today, we find ourselves in a volatile crisis. We must do all that we can to ensure that we’re protecting communities that are impoverished and require our help. The communities struggling most are often the ones that have no spotlight. Thousands of children and families in Turkey and Syria find themselves in a devastating situation. At WFCF, we aim to direct the spotlight at those communities most in need. You can be part of our mission by helping WFCF today!
Ben Hubbard, R. A. (2023, February 9). Live updates: Death toll in Turkey and Syria surpasses 20,000. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/02/09/world/turkey-syria-earthquake
Newswise. (2023). Children in crisis expert: Impact of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria on children. Newswise. https://www.newswise.com/articles/children-in-crisis-expert-impact-of-the-earthquake-in-turkey-and-syria-on-children
UNICEF. (2023). Devastating earthquakes strike Syria and Türkiye. UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/Syria-Turkiye-earthquake