A young girl in Al-Waer, Homs, Syria, carries a box of winter clothes provided by UNICEF.
© UNICEF/UN0155577/Penttila

Crisis in Syria

UNICEF's response to the devastating earthquake that struck Syria and Turkey on Feb. 6, 2023 is an extension of UNICEF's ongoing humanitarian operations in the country, where children have been living under the constant threat of violence, deprivation and extreme emotional duress since the start of the civil war in 2011.

Before the quake destroyed buildings and displaced families, many homes, schools, hospitals and water treatment facilities in Syria had already been destroyed, and millions of children and families had been uprooted by fighting. Families were already struggling to afford food and other basics.

Millions of Syria's children have been living as refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey for years. For those who remain inside the country, displacement has become a way of life.

The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 only exacerbated humanitarian needs, further eroding access to essential services and hitting children and families extremely hard.

More than half the population — over 11 million people, including 6.1 million children — require humanitarian assistance. The scale, severity and complexity of their needs are extensive — and now even more so in the earthquake's aftermath. 

How UNICEF is helping children in Syria 

UNICEF is on the ground collaborating with partners to provide conflict and disaster-affected children with health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), education and protection services.

UNICEF focuses on meeting the most urgent needs of children and families:

  • ensuring affected children and families have access to safe drinking water and sanitation services
  • identifying separated and unaccompanied children and working to reunite them with family, as well as providing mental health and psychosocial support
  • ensuring children are able to get back into the classroom as soon as it is safe to do so
  • delivering emergency medical supplies and nutrition supplies such as high-energy biscuits

Other ongoing programs and interventions in Syria seek to:

  • strengthen lifesaving and preventative nutrition services, including treatment for acute malnutrition and safe and appropriate infant and young child feeding practices
  • vaccinate children against measles and polio, including those living in hard-to-reach areas
  • support infection prevention and control in health care facilities, schools, learning spaces and service centers
  • distribute hygiene kits and promoting safe hygiene practices
  • support a range of education services, including remote learning, and teacher training
  • support specialized services for survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse
  • expand social protection for the poorest families through cash transfers
  • expand life-skills programs, vocational education and entrepreneurship training for adolescents and young people

Seven-year-old Kinda (above, far left) and her siblings have grown up amid violence, displacement and loss. In rural Aleppo, they are picking up the pieces of their lives — catching up on their learning at a UNICEF-supported school, receiving psychosocial support and education in the dangers of land mines. 

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