Fleeing fighting in northeast Syria, more than 138,000 refugees have crossed into Turkey since September 23, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). This is one of the biggest influxes of refugees into Turkey since the conflict in Syria began more than three years ago. UNICEF has been on the ground since the conflict began, working closely with partners like UNHCR to provide refugee families with essential support as they enter the country.
Caught in the line of fire
These refugees are mostly women, children and the elderly of the Kurdish ethnic group. Recent fighting in the town of Kobane in northeastern Syria has forced thousands to flee, often traveling by foot towards the border with Turkey. The violence has escalated to the point that humanitarian organizations are already preparing for the entire city’s population to arrive.
"I don't think in the last three and a half years we have seen 100,000 cross in two days. So this is a bit of a measure of how this situation is unfolding, and the very deep fear people have about the circumstances inside Syria and for that matter, Iraq," said UNCHR Carol Batchelor in an interview with Reuters on Sunday.
Helping Syrian refugees in Turkey and the region
Turkey is already home to 1.3 million refugees who have fled violence in Syria. Following an outbreak of polio, UNICEF has vaccinated nearly 900,000 children in Turkey against the disease, part of a massive vaccination campaign in partnership with WHO targeting 25 million children in the region. UNICEF is currently supporting a nutrition survey among refugees in Turkey.
UNICEF has also set up temporary schools in refugee camps, providing learning programs to nearly 500,000 children in the region, many of whom haven’t been in school for three years. UNICEF has provided more than 600,000 children with emotional and psychological support for trauma.
Water is also a big and ongoing concern in the region. UNICEF has provided nearly 2 million people with access to drinking water in Syria and countries that are hosting Syrian refugees, including Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan.
The humanitarian response to the conflict in Syria is the largest in history, and Syria has been called one of the most dangerous places to be a child.