World Vision deeply concerned about the fate of unaccompanied children in Syria

  • World Vision is concerned about the dire situation of unaccompanied children in Syria following the earthquake.
  • The already stretched child protection system in Northwest Syria is now inundated with extremely high numbers of unaccompanied children who have lost one or both parents.
  • Many are missing identity documents adding to the challenges of reuniting them with their families.
  • Child protection must remain a priority in the emergency response.

15 February 2023 – World Vision is deeply concerned about the dire situation of unaccompanied children in Syria following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of February 6th. The already stretched child protection system in Northwest Syria is now inundated with extremely high numbers of unaccompanied children, many of whom have lost one or both parents. UNICEF estimates that 2.5 million Syrian children have been impacted by the earthquake.

“The number of unaccompanied children is rising each passing day as search and rescue teams continue to find separated children or even infants who were stuck under the rubble following the earthquake,” said World Vision’s protection coordinator in Northwest Syria.

Some of the children lost their immediate families as a result of the earthquake’s destruction in Türkiye and are attempting to be reunited with relatives in Northwest Syria. Others were already residing in Northwest Syria when the earthquake hit, taking the lives of their immediate family members. According to our staff’s initial assessments, their ages range between a few days old to eight years. Most of them are missing identification documents which only adds to the challenges of reuniting them with loved ones.

In the early days following the earthquake, World Vision warned about the serious risks that children might face in the aftermath of such an enormous disaster, calling on child protection to be prioritised in the emergency response. Many children are now at higher risk of family separation, as well as being exposed to various forms of abuse and exploitation due to their increased vulnerabilities.

This comes after almost 12 years of ongoing conflict, displacement and various traumas that had already taken a huge toll on Syrian children’s childhoods and lives. World Vision is currently mobilising its protection teams on the ground to ensure safe referral pathways can be put in place for all affected children in coordination with other protection actors. We will also be using our child protection centres in Northwest Syria to respond to their needs and provide much-needed mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) in close coordination with local partners.

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

“Syrian children are again at risk of being forgotten following the aftermath of this unimaginable crisis. It is not enough that they have suffered from almost 12 years of war and destruction, this massive earthquake has added another complexity to their young lives, in certain cases even taking their loved ones from them. It is urgent that we address the needs of unaccompanied children, to ensure they can still receive the care they desperately need in Northwest Syria.”

A recent needs assessment conducted by World Vision in Northwest Syria showed that 94% of surveyed people’s homes and shelters had been affected by the earthquake, while 82% were sheltering in collective shelters as a result of these damages. In addition, 42% of respondents reported that education facilities had been damaged in their neighbourhoods, and 84% of them said the earthquake had impacted their children’s ability to access education services. So far, our emergency assistance has reached more than 78,000 women, men and children in Northwest Syria with fuel, heaters, ready-to-eat meals and health care assistance.

“We are asking for an increase in funding and scaling up of humanitarian aid dedicated to this emergency, so that humanitarian actors can meet the enormous needs in Northwest Syria. More importantly, child protection must remain at the centre of all our activities. Syrian children need us now more than ever,” adds Mooij.

Clynton Beukes, Programmes Director at World Vision Syria Response spoke to CNA’s Angela Lim about the dire situation on the ground and the biggest challenges facing humanitarian and rescue efforts.

Find out more about our Türkiye and Syria Earthquake Emergency Response

Written By: 
World Vision