Residents of Jandaris in Syria's Aleppo Province rescue a child from the remains of a building that collapsed during the Feb. 6, 2023 earthquake.
Emergency Response

Devastating Earthquake
Hits Syria and Turkey

UNICEF field office teams in Syria and Turkey are providing emergency aid after a massive earthquake rocked the region.

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A major earthquake rocked southern Turkey and northern Syria early on Feb. 6, collapsing buildings as people slept and plunging the region into crisis. Early reports indicate 4,300 people were killed and many thousands more injured. Those figures are rising steadily as the frantic search for survivors continues in harsh winter conditions.

The magnitude 7.8 quake, one of the strongest to hit the region in the past 100 years, was felt in Cyprus, Israel and Lebanon.

Amid waves of aftershocks — and a second earthquake with a 7.5 magnitude — UNICEF is on the ground rushing lifesaving assistance to children and families.

On Feb. 6, 2023, people watch as rescue teams search for survivors under the ruins of a collapsed building in the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, after an early morning earthquake.
On Feb. 6, 2023, people watch as rescue teams search for survivors under the ruins of a collapsed building in the city of Aleppo in northern Syria, after an early morning earthquake. © UNICEF/UN0777953/AFP

UNICEF teams providing emergency assistance to children and families

In Turkey, UNICEF is working with the government to provide immediate assistance in specific areas. The UNICEF country office is supporting search and rescue efforts  and distributing hygiene kits, blankets and warm clothing to children and families in need. UNICEF teams have also coordinated the evacuation to safe spaces of children living in group homes in areas affected by the quake. 

The initial focus of UNICEF's emergency response in Syria is on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), child protection services, nutrition and education.

UNICEF field office teams are assessing impact on main water stations and water storage facilities to determine the extent of damages and interruption in services, and providing emergency water access for displaced families.

UNICEF is also working to protect unaccompanied children and reunite those who have become separated from their families. 

More hardships for Syrian families already displaced by conflict

This latest disaster will only make living conditions more difficult for the 4.1 million people — mostly women and children  — in northwest Syria who already depend on humanitarian assistance. Many are internally displaced after fleeing violence during Syria's protracted civil war. The region is also struggling with an ongoing cholera outbreak and bitter winter weather.  

"That the initial earthquake happened so early in the morning, when many children were fast asleep, made it even more dangerous and the aftershocks bring continuing risks," said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. "Our hearts and thoughts are with the children and families affected, especially those who have lost loved ones or who have been injured. Our immediate priority is to ensure children and families affected receive the support they so desperately need."

Rescue workers carry a boy from earthquake debris in Dana, Idlib, Syria on Feb. 6, 2023.
In Dana, Idlib, Syria, rescue workers carry a boy they recovered from the rubble of a building damaged by the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on Feb. 6, 2023. © UNICEF/UN0777952/ADP

Help UNICEF reach more children in crisis in Turkey and Syria

The most affected areas in northwest Syria are Aleppo and Latakia, with reports of damage in Hama. Early reporting from Syria indicates 150 dead and more than 400 injured, including children, across all governorates. 

Angela Kearney, UNICEF Representative in Syria, was in Aleppo when the earthquake struck. "The numbers keep increasing," she said. "There is a sense of panic, including among children. Many people, including children, are displaced and remain outside in streets and open areas. The government in Syria closed schools and universities for today and some are being used as shelters. The psychological impact on some people we met is grave." 

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TOP PHOTO: On Feb. 6, 2023, as aftershocks continue after a massive earthquake, residents retrieve a small child from the ruins of a collapsed building in the town of Jandaris outside the northwestern city of Afrin in Aleppo Province, Syria.