“Rapid Response Urgently Needed to Support Vulnerable Children in Syria”

Feb. 17, 2023

As the leading charity for children affected by conflict, War Child is calling for a rapid and significant scale-up of the humanitarian response to earthquake survivors – particularly children - in north-west Syria.

We warn that, if the response does not match the scale of the disaster, thousands more vulnerable children and families’ lives will be at stake.

Lukas van Trier, Country Director for our Syria Response says: “Until now, logistical hurdles, bureaucratic obstacles, delays in funding commitments and the politicisation of aid have hampered the response with catastrophic consequences to some of the most vulnerable people on the planet. While all areas affected by the earthquake have acute needs, the situation in north-west Syria is even more desperate due to limited humanitarian access and 12 years of raging conflict. The already fragile infrastructure in the area means that the existing acute needs of children and families have now been made exponentially worse, driving people to the very brink”.

“12 years of raging conflict and now this. Children and families are being driven to the very brink."
Lukas Van Trier, Country Director War Child Syria Response

It is now over one week since the earthquake struck Syria and Türkiye and according to the UN, more than 40,000 lives have been lost. In the case of Syria, OCHA estimates that all of the country’s 8.8 million have been affected, with UN figures reporting over 6,500 people killed and 10,000 injured. Millions have now lost their homes and are experiencing new levels of displacement after 12 years of devastating civil war.

Lukas adds: “As we enter new and harrowing phases of the aftermath, there is a further humanitarian crisis taking shape. The earthquake has created a severe risk to communities where children have been orphaned and families have inadequate shelter. Existing camps for people displaced by the war are now full of people with no food, water, blankets, or heating options in sub-zero temperatures. As desperate as the situation is now, these conditions will soon expose communities to malnutrition, public health threats due to the lack of sanitation and it will push families into making extreme decisions just to stay alive”.

But is it the impact on children that is one of the most deeply concerning aspects of the disaster fall-out. Local sources indicate that many people, particularly children, are suffering from nervous breakdowns, severe shock, and panic, meaning that the need for psychological support services are reaching critical highs and need urgent prioritisation.

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The psychological toll on children is immense, with sources mentioning nervous breakdowns, severe shock and panic

With many parents and caregivers lost to the disaster, separated from their children, or living under extreme conditions, suffering trauma and stress – levels of protection and hopes of recovery for children are now severely compromised and fast diminishing.

“The situation is that humanitarian assistance to north-west Syria took far too long to commence and even now, the response is nowhere near proportionate to the scale of the needs”, says Lukas. “The humanitarian response to date has been organised by local communities and organisations, and without the restoration of commercial and humanitarian shipments from Türkiye, the local supply of essential goods in north-west Syria will dry up in a matter of days, meaning the response effectively comes to a standstill right when it needs to accelerate”.

“The local supply of essential goods in north-west Syria will dry up in a matter of days, meaning the response effectively comes to a standstill right when it needs to accelerate."
Lukas Van Trier, Country Director War Child Syria Response

We are now calling for a range of immediate funding measures to help stem the crisis and support the thousands of children and families in desperate need of support, insisting that:

  • International donors release immediate and flexible new funding directly to international and Syrian NGOs, to reach the affected population as fast as possible.
  • Child protection as well as mental and physical health is highly prioritised – due to the immense impact of this crisis on children’s psychological wellbeing and safety.
  • The UN and all member states should do all what is within their power to depoliticise the aid operation, facilitate unfettered and principled humanitarian access, and concentrate all efforts and resources on securing an immediate, massive scaleup of the response - especially in parts of Syria left in the cold in the wake of this horrifying disaster.

Only then will steps in the right direction be taken to help mitigate the risks, and give hopes of a safer future for Syrian children.