Unicef, the United Nations agency dedicated to the protection of children, fears that thousands of children may have died in the earthquakes that occurred on Monday in southern Turkey and northern Syria, a spokesman for the organization said today.
So far, the highest number of victims has been recorded in Turkey (more than 3,400 dead and 21,000 injured), but the strong vulnerability of the affected population in Syria – as a consequence of twelve years of civil war – is of particular concern to Unicef.
In Syria, 1,552 people have been reported and another 3,549 have been injured.
“There was already an emergency situation in northwestern Syria. Communities there are battling a cholera outbreak and experiencing heavy rain and snowfall. In this context, and with more than a decade of conflict, this earthquake is impossible to bear,” spokesman James Elder said in Geneva.
For this reason, the agency will focus its first efforts on providing drinking water and sanitation services to affected communities in Syria, which will help prevent the onset of diseases.
Likewise, it will work immediately to identify children who are alone to reunite them with their families or guarantee them protection.
This week, all schools in the affected areas of Turkey and Syria have been closed, but UNICEF will help children return to school as soon as it is safe to do so, which will help them “regain some sense of normality in the midst of the chaos”.