Children in Syria at risk of abuse and separation as earthquake leaves hundreds of thousands stranded

• 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

• Children will also be out of school as the buildings are still deemed unsafe.

8 February 2023 - International aid agency World Vision has warned that children in Syria are at risk of exploitation and abuse, as they have been left without homes and are no longer able to attend school.

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. 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 focussed 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.”

The aid organisation is currently undertaking a rapid assessment in both Syria and Türkiye but has also already begun distributing fuel and heat to shelters so that families can safely stay there and are protected from sub-zero temperatures and other risks outside.

“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.” said Mr Mooij.

World Vision 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 and for all donors and major stakeholders in the Syrian crisis response to urgently mobilize 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 is 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 -- and 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 Mr Mooij.

Residents in Singapore can lend their support to World Vision's humanitarian aid to survivors of the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria with your donation. Your donation will help to provide fuel to medical facilities and collective emergency shelters, food and other key non-food items such as tents, blankets, mattresses, tarpaulins and heaters. Click here to give your support. 

Written By: 
World Vision