INDEPENDENT NEWS

Children In Syria At Risk Of Abuse And Separation As Earthquake Leaves Hundreds Of Thousands Stranded

Published: Thu 9 Feb 2023 11:11 AM
International aid agency World Vision is warning that children in war-torn Syria are at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, as Monday’s massive earthquake has left so many homeless.
International aid agency World Vision is warning that children in war-torn Syria are at greater risk of exploitation and abuse, as Monday’s massive earthquake has left so many homeless.
The 7.8 magnitude quake has killed thousands across Syria and Türkiye, with many more thousands injured and homeless, and there are fears the death toll may rise to more than 20,000.
World Vision’s Syria Response National Director, Johan Mooij, says the devastating earthquake has left Syria’s children incredibly vulnerable.
"In Northern Syria, in particular, the threats to children from abuse were already extreme. They have been living in a war zone and grappling with soaring poverty. Now their lives have been devastated by earthquakes and this has created an unimaginable number of challenges and suffering for children.
“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. Unfortunately, there are people who will prey on vulnerable children and will exploit them at a time when they most need support and protection.
“As a child-focused organisation, the safety and protection of children is World Vision’s main priority and will be central in our response to this emergency,” he says.
World Vision is currently undertaking a rapid needs assessment in both Syria and Türkiye and is already distributing fuel and heat to temporary shelters, so that families have warmth in the sub-zero temperatures.
World Vision New Zealand National Director, Grant Bayldon, says the needs faced by families and children in Northern Syria were already extreme, but are now unimaginable.
“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.
“Getting desperately needed medical care to the injured is difficult. Health facilities were already poorly equipped and unable to cope in Syria, but many hospitals and clinics have been destroyed,” he says.
Bayldon says World Vision is also calling for swift and unhindered humanitarian access to the most impacted areas in northwest Syria so that emergency aid and support can reach those most affected.
He says funds are urgently needed to ensure organisations like World Vision can 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.
Bayldon says New Zealanders can make a difference and help provide emergency aid and long-term support for the children of Turkiye and Syria.
“We must do everything we can to protect them now and in the future. They, like children everywhere, deserve a childhood and a chance of life in all its fullness,” he says.
World Vision New Zealand has launched an appeal to provide urgent supplies to children and families in Turkiye and Syria. To donate go to www.worldvision.org.nz or text RESPOND to 5055.

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