Catastrophe brewing for 3.7mln children in quake-hit Syria: UNICEF
According to the organization's chief, immediate assistance is not enough; what is needed is long-term support to be provided to the families and children.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell warned on Thursday that 3.7 million Syrian children are facing numerous life-threatening dangers and threats as an aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck both the country and Turkey on February 6.
"The children of Syria have already endured unspeakable horror and heartbreak,” she said following a two-day visit to the disaster-stricken areas in Syria.
“Now, these earthquakes and aftershocks not only destroyed more homes, schools and places for children to play, they also shattered any sense of safety for so many of the most vulnerable children and families,” Russell added.
The ongoing 12 year-war on Syria has impacted its children severely and left them suffering from the lack of their basic needs and childhood needs.
The organization's chief visited disaster-stricken areas in Syria, including Aleppo, during which she made a stop at a temporary learning facility established following the earthquake, where over 250 children that are living in mass shelters are offered education and mobile health services, in addition to recreational and physiological activities.
Russell met with a mother of two young girls, aged 10 and 11, who, like thousands of others, have been left without a home after the earthquake.
The mother, Esraa, who is now staying at a Mosque in Al Masharqa, told Russel that her husband went missing during the war, forcing her to raise her daughters on her own.
“During the second earthquake which happened a week ago, my daughter was so scared and stressed that she fainted,” Esraa told Russell, adding that she and her children were shelterless for two days in the cold and rain before resorting to the Mosque.
Esraa and her daughters are now being provided cash assistance from UNICEF.
During her visit to a UNICEF-supported water-pumping station that supplies safe water for nearly two-thirds of Aleppo's residents, Russell stressed that short-term disaster relief aid is not enough, noting that the families must be supported for a longer period to assist them in overcoming the catastrophe.
“It is not enough to simply provide immediate relief – we must commit to standing with these families for the long haul, helping them to regain a sense of stability and hope,” she said. “By providing access to essential services, like safe water, health care, and psychosocial support, we can help children and families heal from the awful experiences they have endured so they can begin to rebuild their lives," she further stressed.
So far, UNICEF was able to provide assistance to over 400,000 people impacted by the earthquake in northwest Syria, and the organization's trucks managed to send humanitarian aid to more than 1.8 million people in that region.
According to UNICEF, almost 173 million dollars are required to send vital life-saving aid for 5.4 million people impacted by the quake, 2.6 million of which are children.
The humanitarian aid will be distributed across highly impacted areas in Syria using all means of entry, including cross-border routes with Turkey.