AMMAN: More than 6 million children in Turkiye and Syria remain in need of humanitarian aid 100 days after the devastating February earthquakes, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund warned on Wednesday.
The earthquake and aftershocks on Feb 6. left thousands of children homeless and without access to basic amenities such as safe drinking water, schooling and medical care.
“In the aftermath of the earthquakes, children in both countries have experienced unimaginable loss and grief,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said.
“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,” she added.
Vulnerable children in affected areas face growing exposure to violence and forced marriage or labor, which has endangered their education.
Almost 4 million children enrolled in school, including over 350,000 refugee and migrant children, had their education disrupted by the earthquake.
UNICEF added that many families in affected areas were already struggling before the disaster, with 40 percent of Turkish households in the quake zone living below the poverty line. Without sustained local and international support, this figure could rise to more than 50 percent, according to estimates.
Meanwhile, in Syria, children were already suffering as a result of the 12-year-long war that had destroyed infrastructure and impaired public services. The massive quake in February caused additional damage to schools, hospitals and other critical sites.
Water and sewage infrastructure have also been severely damaged in Syria, putting 6.5 million people in danger of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera.
Russell added: “The long-term impacts of the disaster, including soaring food and energy prices combined with loss of livelihoods and access to services, will push hundreds of thousands of children deeper into poverty.
“Unless financial assistance and essential services are prioritized for these children and families as part of the immediate and long-term recovery plan, then children will remain at greater risk of exploitation and abuse.”
UNICEF has called on the international community to ensure that children’s needs are met within funding allocations, urging continued investment toward the most marginalized.
The UN agency is appealing for $172.7 million to implement its Immediate Response Plan for the Earthquake in Syria. To date, $78.1 million has been received, leaving nutrition, health and education needs severely underfunded.
In Turkiye, UNICEF still requires more than $85 million as part of a $196 million appeal to provide critical services to children in need.