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A boy with his back to the camera walks toward a group of people trying to rescue others from under rubble after the earthquake in Syria
15 February 2023

Children in Syria at risk of abuse and separation

The earthquake has left hundreds of thousands stranded in the cold winter months

The earthquakes in Turkey and Syria have killed thousands of people. Hundreds of buildings have been flattened, leaving children without homes or schools, and at risk of exploitation and abuse.

  • Hundreds of thousands of children are currently stranded outside of their homes and are becoming even more vulnerable to family separation, exploitation and abuse.
  • Children are also at risk of hypothermia as they struggle to survive in freezing temperatures, with many families sleeping in cars as buildings are flattened by aftershocks.
  • Children will be out of school as the buildings are still deemed unsafe.

As a member of the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee), World Vision is taking emergency supplies to those most in need, including food, water, warm blankets, hygiene kits and shelters.

READ MORE: What’s happening in Turkey and Syria?

Johan Mooij, World Vision Syria Response's National Director, says:

“Like many emergency situations that World Vision has responded to in the past, the children in Syria impacted by yesterday’s devastating earthquake are now extremely vulnerable.

In Syria, they already faced many risks before these devastating earthquakes. Hundreds of thousands are now homeless, and some will have been separated from their families, which further increases their risk of being exploited or facing abuse.

In the early stages of a crisis, as emergency actions are undertaken to meet the urgent needs of vulnerable people, safeguarding systems can struggle to develop quickly enough.”

A crowd of people in Syria standing over rubble, watching a rescue operation underway after the earthquake

Protecting children is a priority

Johan continues: "Unfortunately, there are people who will prey on this vulnerability and will exploit these children at a time when they most need support and protection.

As a child-focused organisation, the safety and protection of children is World Vision’s main priority and will be central in our response to this emergency.

In Northern Syria, in particular, the threats to children from abuse were already extreme.

The soaring poverty, within a warzone, now devastated by earthquakes, has created an unimaginable number of challenges and suffering for children.”

World Vision is currently undertaking a rapid assessment in both Syria and Turkey but have also already begun distributing fuel and heaters to shelters, so that families can safely stay there and are protected from sub-zero temperatures and other risks outside.

Two World Vision representatives delivering an electric heater to victims of the earthquake n Syria.

Syrian children have already been through so much 

“Humanitarian needs were already extremely severe in Northwest Syria, and this devastating earthquake has added trauma to ongoing crisis there. 

Health facilities were already badly equipped and unable to cope with need, but now many have been destroyed. 

Families are trying to survive with no homes, no access to food, in sub-zero temperatures whilst also attempting to deal with the physical and mental impact of this earthquake. 

We call on the international community to prioritise these people, who have already been through so much,” says Johan Mooij.

We must do everything we can to protect them now and in the future - Johan Mooij, World Vision Syria Response's National Director

Syrian children need your help 

World Vision Syria Response is calling for swift and unhindered humanitarian access to the most impacted areas in northwest Syria, so that those most affected can be assisted as soon as possible. 

World Vision Syria is also encouraging all donors and major stakeholders in the Syrian crisis response to urgently mobilise resources to rapidly meet the most pressing humanitarian and health needs in the first stages of the response, as well as aiding reconstruction efforts in the mid to longer term. 

“It's essential that the children, who are now even more vulnerable and at risk of exploitation, are able to return to their homes and schools as soon as possible." 

"They are currently struggling to survive in freezing temperatures, exposed to the spread of disease, and to various protection risks - such as child labour or early child marriage - as well as other forms of exploitation and abuse. 

We must do everything we can to protect them now and in the future. They, like all children in the world, deserve a childhood and a chance of life in all its fullness,” said Johan Mooij. 

How you can help children affected by the earthquake in Turkey and Syria

Your donation can help us reach those affected by the Turkey and Syria earthquake. It will provide urgent support that includes:

  • distributing emergency food and water supplies,
  • access to temporary shelters and essential household items like bedding, warm clothes and heaters,
  • helping families stay healthy with hygiene kits and hospital referrals,
  • providing psychosocial support, protection and educational activities for children affected by the earthquake

Support vulnerable children in Syria

Donate to our emergency relief to help children stay safe after the earthquake.

Donate now

Learn more about how we respond in emergencies