New York / Amman / Ankara / Damascus / Geneva, May 17, 2023 One hundred days after the earthquakes that struck Turkey and Syria, the deadliest in the modern history of the region, millions of children and families are struggling to rebuild their lives, as 2.5 million children in Turkey and 3.7 million children in Syria need continuous humanitarian assistance.
The earthquakes that initially occurred on 6 February 2023 and the thousands of aftershocks that followed have pushed many families into extremely difficult conditions and left many children homeless and without access to services, including safe water, education, and medical care. Protection risks faced by vulnerable children.
“In the aftermath of the earthquakes, children in both countries have suffered an unimaginable level of loss and distress,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, who visited both countries a few weeks after the first earthquakes. “The earthquakes hit areas where many already vulnerable families lived. Children have lost families and loved ones, seen their homes, schools and communities destroyed, and their entire lives turned upside down.”
Even before the recent earthquakes, many families in the affected areas were struggling to survive. In affected areas of the Turkish territory, child poverty rates were already high – around 40 percent of households were living without risk of poverty, compared to around 32 percent nationally. Estimates show that without continued domestic and international support, including cash transfers, to ensure access to education, this proportion could rise to more than 50 percent.
Currently, vulnerable children living in the worst affected areas face threats including violence, forced marriage, forced labor and school dropout. The education of nearly four million children in school, including more than 350,000 refugee and migrant children, has been disrupted. While Turkey has made progress in reducing these risks in recent years, the effects of earthquakes may set back this work.
In Syria, children were already struggling after 12 years of ongoing conflict, which affected all infrastructure and public services. The earthquakes in February exacerbated this situation, causing additional damage to schools, health-care services and other infrastructure. Damage to water and sanitation infrastructure has put 6.5 million people at increased risk of waterborne diseases, including cholera.
An estimated 51,000 children under the age of five are likely to suffer from moderate to severe levels of severe acute malnutrition, and 76,000 pregnant and lactating women will need treatment for acute malnutrition.
It is estimated that the education of 1.9 million children has been disrupted, as many schools are still being used to house people displaced by the earthquakes. Many of them have been living in very difficult conditions for the past 100 days, with the added psychological stress of not knowing when they have to move from one shelter to another.
“The road to recovery is a long one, and families will need continued support. The long-term effects of the disaster, including skyrocketing food and energy prices coupled with the loss of livelihoods and access to services, will drive hundreds “Unless we prioritize providing financial assistance and basic services to them and their families as part of an immediate and long-term recovery plan, these children will remain at a high level of risk of exploitation and abuse.”
UNICEF is calling on the international community to prioritize child-centred early recovery, and to ensure that children’s needs are met within funding allocations. Investments must be made in recovery efforts, with an emphasis on building back better and building more resilient and inclusive systems for the most marginalized.
UNICEF has been working tirelessly since the earthquakes to scale up its direct life-saving assistance to affected communities, assess the impacts of the disaster, support the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and restore basic services. However, more support is needed to address the ongoing crisis.
In order to protect children’s rights and prevent further deprivation, UNICEF urges continued investment in key areas, including financial assistance for families, access to quality education, and access to psychosocial support. These investments will help lift families out of poverty and prevent negative outcomes such as child marriage and child labour.
Continuous funding for health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene programs is critical to ensuring children’s health and well-being and reducing the risk of disease outbreaks.
In order to meet the life-saving needs of nearly 3 million children affected by the earthquakes in Syria, UNICEF is appealing for $172.7 million to implement the Immediate Earthquake Response Plan. To date, UNICEF has received $78.1 million, and nutrition, health and education programs remain largely underfunded.
In Turkey, UNICEF still needs more than $85 million of the $196 million appeal to provide services to children in need. While there are needs across all sectors, humanitarian cash transfer interventions remain the most underfunded aspect.