Unicef Ireland has launched an emergency fundraising appeal for children and families impacted by the earthquakes in Syria and southeast Turkey this week.
Thousands of children and families may be at risk after two earthquakes and dozens of aftershocks hit Syria and Turkey on Monday. More than 5,000 people have been killed in the two countries, including children, with thousands more injured.
As rescue efforts continue, Unicef said it is concerned that the number of children killed and injured could grow over the coming hours and days.
Launching the emergency appeal, Unicef Ireland executive director Peter Power said the scale of the devastation was “vast” and “concerning”.
[ Turkey and Syria earthquake: Death toll passes 5,000 as rescue mission continues ]
“The immediate aftermath of a disaster is the most critical time in terms of protecting the lives of children, whether that’s through emergency supplies or medical equipment. Our efforts in the next few days are essential, and we need urgent funds to support this work.”
“People in Ireland have always shown immense solidarity with the children and families of Syria and we have no doubt that will continue now,” he said.
Speaking at a press briefing on the situation on Tuesday, Unicef spokesman James Elder said the earthquakes came at “the worst possible time for vulnerable children and families in the affected areas.”
“Thousands of homes have been destroyed, displacing families and exposing them to the elements at a time of year when temperatures regularly drop below freezing and snow and freezing rain are common. Displaced families in north-west Syria, and Syrian refugee families living in Turkey in informal settlements are among the most vulnerable as overnight temperatures continue to dip below 0 Celsius,” he said.
The earthquake comes at a time when thousands of children and their families in Syria were already vulnerable due to a harsh winter, difficult economic conditions and lack of electricity.
Two-thirds of the population requires assistance amid a worsening economic crisis, localised hostilities, mass displacement and devastated public infrastructure.
While the numbers are not yet clear, scores of schools, hospitals and other medical and educational facilities had been damaged or destroyed by the earthquakes.
Unicef estimates that more than 14.6 million people, including 6.5 million children, are in need of assistance, and 6.9 million people, including 3 million children, are internally displaced.
As aftershocks continue across the region, Unicef said it has humanitarian specialists “already at work to coordinate the assistance in areas of reach in the affected Syrian Governorates of Aleppo, Hama, Idli and Latakia.”
The charity’s focus would be on ensuring affected children and families have access to safe drinking water and sanitation services, medical supplies and trauma kits, and on ensuring children can get back to school “as soon as it is safe to do so”.