Published: 2023-05-17 17:00
Last Updated: 2023-06-01 18:16
A hundred days have passed since the devastating earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria, leaving behind a trail of desperate situations for millions of children. The aftermath of these catastrophic events has pushed families to their limits, leaving 2.5 million children in Türkiye and 3.7 million in Syria in dire need of ongoing humanitarian aid, according to UNICEF.
The initial earthquakes, which occurred on February 6, 2023, were followed by countless aftershocks, further compounding the challenges faced by affected families. Homes were destroyed, schools were reduced to rubble, and communities were left devastated. As a result, children were left without essential services like safe water, education, and medical care. Moreover, vulnerable children faced increased risks of exploitation and harm.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, who personally witnessed the devastation during visits to both countries shortly after the earthquakes, highlighted the unimaginable loss and grief experienced by children. She emphasized that these earthquakes struck areas where families were already vulnerable, resulting in the loss of loved ones and the destruction of homes, schools, and communities. The lives of these children have been completely upended.
"In the aftermath of the earthquakes, children in both countries have experienced unimaginable loss and grief," Russell said.
Russell added: "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."
Even prior to these recent earthquakes, families in the affected regions were already struggling. High poverty rates among children were prevalent, with approximately 40 percent of households living below the poverty line, compared to the national average of around 32 percent. Without sustained support from local and international sources, including cash assistance and access to education, it is estimated that the poverty rate could surpass 50 percent.
In the hardest-hit areas, vulnerable children now face additional threats such as violence, forced marriage or labor, and dropping out of school. The education of nearly four million enrolled children, including over 350,000 refugee and migrant children, has been severely disrupted. While Türkiye had made progress in mitigating these risks in recent years, the impact of the earthquakes threatens to reverse those gains.
In Syria, children were already bearing the brunt of a 12-year conflict that had devastated infrastructure and public services. The earthquakes in February further worsened the situation, causing additional damage to schools, healthcare facilities, and other critical infrastructure. The destruction of water and sewage systems has put 6.5 million people at a heightened risk of waterborne diseases like cholera.
Alarmingly, an estimated 51,000 children under the age of five are at risk of moderate to severe acute malnutrition, while 76,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women require treatment for acute malnutrition. Approximately 1.9 million children have had their education disrupted, with many schools serving as temporary shelters. Over the past 100 days, these children have endured incredibly challenging circumstances, compounded by the uncertainty of their living arrangements.
UNICEF emphasizes that the path to recovery will be long, requiring sustained support for families. The long-term consequences of this disaster, coupled with rising food and energy prices, loss of livelihoods, and limited access to services, threaten to push hundreds of thousands of children deeper into poverty. Urgent financial assistance and essential services must be prioritized as part of immediate and long-term recovery plans to safeguard children from exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF calls upon the international community to prioritize the well-being of children and allocate funds accordingly. Recovery efforts must focus on building more resilient and inclusive systems for the most marginalized. Since the earthquakes, UNICEF has been working tirelessly to provide life-saving assistance, assess the impact of the disaster, and aid in the rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure and restoration of basic services. However, further support is needed to address the ongoing crisis effectively.